Office Napping Solutions (Zzzz to Boost Productivity)
Though there are plenty titans of industry that have bragged about being able to get so much done on so little sleep (Apple CEO Tim Cook brags about getting 3 to 4 hours of sleep each night, for example), the science is pretty settled when it comes to the productivity benefits of sleep.
The more sleep you get, the better you perform – this includes grabbing 20 or 30 minutes of sleep during “power naps” in the middle of the day.
Scientists all over the world are in agreement that more people – particularly those working in high stress environments that rely on their creativity – could benefit greatly from grabbing an office nap every workday.
It might be a hard sell to your boss or management team, especially if they have already caught you dozing off on the clock, but that’s why we have put together this quick guide.
Share the ‘inside information’ contained below with leadership at your office and you might be able to change the culture and improve the productivity of the workforce almost overnight.
The benefits of taking a nap at work
To kick things off, it’s important to remember that the overwhelming majority of adults are operating with some sort of sleep deficiency.
According to the American CDC, more than 33% of all working adults aren’t getting the sleep they need on a nightly basis.
The average adult needs anywhere between seven and nine hours of sleep for optimum performance, but sleep study after sleep study shows that most of us are lucky to squeeze even six hours of uninterrupted sleep out of each night.
We wind up feeling sluggish, worn down, and unproductive because of this – and that sinks morale, drags down team performance, and handicaps productivity across the board at the same time. Imagine that compounding across the entire office and you can see why a lack of sleep is so destructive.
On the flip side of things, science has shown that even really quick “power naps” can boost our productivity through the roof even if they don’t contain all three phases of sleep usually required for a satisfactory sleep.
A study out of the University of Colorado at Boulder shows that even just a 20 minute nap in the middle of the day offered the following benefits:
- Significantly improved creativity and problem-solving skills
- Significantly improved logical reasoning and communication skills and
- A much easier time accepting, digesting, and learning complex information
All of those things contribute positively to your productivity levels at work.
Does a power nap really work?
Best of all, you don’t need a crazy long nap to get the performance bump you are after, either.
A quick 20 minute nap (commonly referred to as the Power Nap) is maybe the most effective way to get a big bump of energy that sustains you through the day – especially if you time it right.
The red-hot popular television show MythBusters illustrated just how effective a power nap can be.
Hooked up to a host of machines that carefully analyzed their brain waves and productivity, the team showed that taking four 20 minute naps every six hours over a 24 hour block of time significantly increased their efficiency, their productivity, and their mental health.
The only thing you have to be careful about is stretching that 20 minute nap into a 30 minute nap.
As soon as you cross that 30 minute threshold your brain starts to go through different sleep cycles, putting you into a state known as “sleep inertia”.
This process moves you deeper and deeper into sleep cycles and any interruption (like waking up to actually get back to work) will make you feel even more tired than when you started your nap in the first place.
Stick to the 20 minute nap religiously and avoid going overboard to 30 minutes or beyond naps at work and you should be good to go!
Choosing a sleeping chair for the office
Now that we have covered the “why” behind office napping, it’s time to get into the nuts and bolts of how to actually go about taking that nap comfortably.
After all, the odds are pretty good that your workplace isn’t going to dedicate a chunk of their commercial real estate to put king size beds in for employees to crash on.
No, you’re going to have to be a little more strategic and a little more creative when it comes to getting a good nap in at the office.
We don’t necessarily mean you have to go to the lengths that George Costanza went in the episode of Seinfeld where he built a full-blown bedroom underneath this desk at Yankee Stadium. But you’re going to want to make sure that your environment at the office is conducive to grabbing 20 minutes of great sleep in the middle of the day.
Features of an office chair that’s good for napping
There are a lot of things you should be looking for in a solid office chair, not the least of which is how well it fits your body when you are sitting in it and actually getting work done.
Productivity soars when you have a chair that really fits you. Ergonomics are a major piece of the puzzle, helping to keep your body in a sitting position comfortably for hours on end so that you can tackle the work of the day without feeling tired, worn out, or like you are being crippled.
At the same time productivity focused office chairs are not always the best chairs for sleeping in.
After all, as we just mentioned, the ergonomics of those chairs are designed to keep you in a sitting position comfortably – and most of us are unable to fall asleep straight away (or state sleep for 20 solid minutes) when we are sitting straight up to support great posture.
No, you’re going to want to look for a handful of key elements that separate good chairs from great chairs (particularly when it comes to grabbing a nap in them).
Some of the features you want to focus on include (but are not limited to):
- A chair that can comfortably recline all the way back, why the very least to a minimum of 180° without any difficulty supporting you that position
- A slide out “pocket” footrest that lets you keep your legs and feet level when you are laying down
- Fantastic lumbar support to avoid the kinds of backaches and pains that can compromise your productivity when you wake up
- A padded headrest that can double as a pillow in a pinch
- Durable construction material and engineering across the board so you feel safe and comfortable sleeping on it
- A more breathable fabric that isn’t going to trap body heat and disrupt your nap
- A gentle rocking feature is a nice bonus, especially if your budget will support it
Obviously, there are other features you want to look for in a good nap time chair but these are the basics everyone should be on the hunt for. It’s never a bad idea to try a couple of chairs in person whenever possible, getting a feel for them and how comfortable they are for you specifically.
The pros and cons of sleeping in a recliner
A reclining office chair is a game changer for anybody that wants to grab a power nap at work.
Giving you a stable, horizontal sleeping platform that (ideally) is incredibly comfortable, any recliner beats trying to sleep sitting upright in a traditional office chair – or worse, trying to sleep while laying down on your office floor.
All the same, there are definitely some pros and cons of sleeping in a reclining office chair. We breakdown the most important ones below.
- For starters, you’ll be able to significantly alleviate a lot of the back pain issues you might have been struggling with otherwise – especially if those back pain issues are caused by sitting down in your office chair for hours on end.
- Secondly, you are going to be able to promote much healthier blood circulation when lying down in the reclined position. Gravity will take over when you are laying down, reducing stress and inflammation and allowing your blood to circulate more efficiently. All of that extra oxygenated blood is going to have you feeling refreshed and well rested, too. You’ll feel more creative, more energized, and more eager to tackle the rest of your day.
- Finally, they are also going to see big improvements to your breathing when you are sleeping in a recliner. Your diaphragm is more easily able to open, you breath with ease while laying back, and should be able to get a lot more oxygen into your body. All of this is going to have you feeling more refreshed and ready to go, too!
- Depending on the size of your office (and whether or not your office is private) you may or may not be all that comfortable fully extending and grabbing 20 minutes of sleep in the middle of the day on a reclining office chair.
- On top of that, sleeping on a recliner definitely limits the amount of sleeping positions you’ll be able to enjoy. Of course, sleeping upright in a traditional office chair is going to handicap you even more so. That’s a trade-off most people are willing to make.
Sleeping at your desk
Now that you have fully committed to getting some sleep in at the office it’s time to think about how you actually go about sleeping at your desk.
After all, as mentioned above, the chances are pretty good that your office doesn’t have a naptime policy in place already.
It’s very unlikely that everyone gets 45 minutes for lunch and then another 30 for naptime, with a special designated space that’s temperature controlled, super relaxing, and away from harsh fluorescent lights. So you’ll have to be a little bit creative about how you create your own sleep environment at work.
A big part of that is getting the right chair (and we highlighted that a little earlier), but the rest is actually going through the more “tactical” nature of getting your sleep environment set up in conducive to great rest.
Tips and tricks for sleeping at your desk
For starters, make sure that you commit fully to NEVER leaning forward, burying your face in your arms, and arching your back when you fall asleep at work.
This might be the easiest way to covertly grab a nap at the office but is going to absolutely devastate your body, your long-term health, and sap your energy faster than you could imagine. You’re putting a lot of pressure on your body when you fall asleep like this.
Instead, you want to recline (even just a little). This position is much more conducive to getting in great sleep and is a big piece of the puzzle when you’re trying to master office napping solutions.
Secondly, it’s not a bad idea to slide a pair of high quality headphones over your ears to play soothing music, ambient sounds (like crashing waves or jungle noises), or something else that can block out the hubbub of a modern office.
There’s nothing worse than taking 20 minutes to fall asleep when you can’t afford to lose a lot of time.
Temperature control is another thing you want to master as best you can.
You probably won’t be able to (or feel comfortable with) bringing blankets or pillows to the office. You won’t have any trouble bringing extra layers of clothes to the office, though – extra sweatshirts, sweaters, etc. – that can do double duty as bedding for your office chair.
Lastly, a discrete eye mask can help you block out the almost all fluorescent lights that populate our modern offices. You don’t want to make a big thing of using those kinds of masks, though, so make sure that they are slim, discrete, and comfortable – all while blocking light so that you can get to sleep faster.
Of course, if you’re looking for a more “all-in-one” kind of solution to help you get better sleep at the office – and don’t mind looking a little “funky” while you sleep – ostrich pillows are the way to go.
Ostrich pillows fit snugly over your head, blocking out light and most ambient office noises. A little bit oversized (basically like a pillow that goes around your entire head) they give you a lot of cushioning to sleep in any position imaginable.
There’s even room to keep your hands inside the pillow if you have to put your head down on your desk (though we don’t recommend that sleeping position, as highlighted earlier).
Best of all, you can compactly tuck them away into a drawer on your desk so that they are always there when you need them
Sleeping under your desk
Some people (like George Costanza in Seinfeld) find that the best place to sleep at the office is underneath their desk.
You don’t have to hire a carpenter to fully customize your under desk “bedroom” the way that George did, but it’s not a bad idea to create a good sleep space under your desk if you have the room.
Some people go with a more minimal approach (keeping a pillow and a blanket under their desk) whereas others have Japanese futon mattresses or blow up mattresses tucked away in a closet somewhere that they can use under their desk for 20 minutes a day, too.
Using an under desk foot hammock
Another approach worth considering is investing in an under the desk hammock or under the desk foot hammock to help you get some sleep.
The first is a traditional hammock that’s a little more compact, designed to fit snugly underneath your desk, and can cradle your body weight while you sleep up off the floor.
The second is significantly smaller, designed just to cradle feet, but should help you get a little more reclining action when you’re sleeping in the office than you would have been able to otherwise.
Both of them are discrete, both of them are relatively affordable, and both of them are easy enough to set up on work on so that no one has to know you set up a hammock and sleep cubby underneath your office desk!
At the end of the day, getting a little more sleep is always a good thing – even if you have to steal 20 minutes towards the end of your lunch break at the office.
A power nap can change your level of productivity significantly, helping you to feel supercharged and reputable like you did when you first got to the office. Just mind and be sure not to push that 20 minutes sleep break into the 30 minute and beyond window or you’ll end up waking up feeling even more sluggish and exhausted than you did in the first place.
Use the inside information shared in this quick guide to set up a sleeping spot at the office that works for you, combining your chair, your desk, and science to improve both your productivity at work as well as your short and long-term health!