Napping Makes Inroads in the Workplace

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Some employers are doing the unthinkable: encouraging workers to nap on the job. And one firm near Wall Street is trying to cash in on the concept of workday napping. It has opened a napping boutique, filled with bankers, brokers and cops who pay $14 for a 20-minute nap.


On Wednesdays, our business report focuses on the workplace. Today, sleeping on the job.

Research shows that even a short afternoon nap can boost brainpower and productivity. A small but growing number of employees can take advantage of nap rooms at work, while others are ducking into sleep boutiques.

NPR's Wendy Kaufman reports.

WENDY KAUFMAN reporting:

Sleep is a bit like chocolate. Nearly everyone loves it, and most feel guilty about having too much.

But not Curtis Peake(ph). He spends his day sitting at a computer, processing documents. And by his afternoon break, he's ready for a nap.

Mr. CURTIS PEAKE: And the recliner is such a wonderful thing, because you actually elevate it to the level of your choice.

KAUFMAN: The recliner is actually a napping pod. It's in a storefront facility in New York's financial district. Peake makes the short, three-minute walk from his office to MetroNap so frequently that he buys a monthly pass. He hangs up his suit jacket and enters the cool, gray, napping room.

Mr. ARSHAD CHOWDHURY (Co-Founder and CEO of MetroNaps): So what you'll notice about the pod room when you first walk in is that the room is bathed in white noise.

KAUFMAN: Arshad Chowdhury, the co-founder and CEO of MetroNaps, takes me inside.

Mr. CHOWDHURY: In this room, there are two rows of pods that are lined up on either side of the room. And we'll set you down in this first pod here on the left. You can set the timer just by clicking the button to, usually 20 - that's what we recommend - 20 minutes. You can recline back to wherever you're most comfortable. And you can put on the headphones.

(Soundbite of music)

KAUFMAN: Chowdhury came up with the idea for this facility and another at the Empire State Building several years ago when he was working at a major bank.

Mr. CHOWDHURY: And I saw that a lot of my colleagues were falling asleep at their desks and at meetings, and people would even sneak off to the bathrooms to take a nap.

KAUFMAN: That's not uncommon. Would-be nappers crawl under their desks, retreat to their cars, and just about anywhere else where they can find a few minutes of peace and quiet.

The benefits of an afternoon nap - ideally about 15 to 40 minutes - are clear. Research shows it can make a difference in mental acuity, creativity, and productivity. Plus, your mood will be better.

Emerging from his napping pod, Curtis Peake looks refreshed.

Mr. PEAKE: I feel rejuvenated. I mean, you know, kind of like I've got a halo on my head and everybody's wow, you know? My legs was kind of hurting when I came in. Now they feel great. And it doesn't even feel like I sat for four hours until lunchtime, and stuff, you know?

KAUFMAN: As a nation, Americans don't get enough sleep, says Darrell Drobnich of the National Sleep Foundation, a non-profit organization which researches sleep and promotes its benefits. What's more, he says, we don't always recognize just how tired we are.

Mr. DARRELL DROBNICH (National Sleep Foundation): And the more fatigued that a person gets, the larger amount of sleep debt that they carry - they experience what are called micro sleeps, where you just nod off for two to three seconds.

KAUFMAN: And they may not even know they did. Pretty scary if you're an airplane pilot or a railroad engineer. It's not surprising, then, that transportation companies have been among the first to allow, even encourage naps, during the workday.

At Connecticut-based Yarde Metals, which has 650 workers, there are lots of benefits: profit sharing, dog kennels, a health club, and napping rooms in all the facilities.

Craig Yarde says at corporate headquarters, the quiet room - which employees can use at any time - is just off the main lobby.

Mr. CRAIG YARDE (President and Founder of Yarde Metals, Connecticut): Yeah, we have a little - just a little sign that we keep on the back knob inside, so that when people go in there they just take the sign off. It's like a hotel room, where you put on the outside, do not disturb.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. YARDE: You know, there's a certain percentage of people that seem to avail themselves of it quite often. And I don't think they could do without it.

KAUFMAN: Yarde says some employees still think naps are for sissies, or for those who are lazy. He doesn't think that way. When workers need a nap, he says, they should be able to take it. They, and the company, will benefit.

Wendy Kaufman, NPR News, New York.

(Soundbite of music)

GONYEA: This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Don Gonyea.


And I'm Renee Montagne.

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