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August 29, 2001
When Sleeping on the Job is Encouraged
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impact of sleep-deprived employees on the bottom line has caught the attention of employers, and some of the progressive ones are allowing employees to nap on the job, according to USA Today.

Studies by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) show that even though adults need about eight hours of sleep, one in three respondents to a national survey admitted getting only 6.5 hours a night, or less.

These same workers report that their sleepiness on the job regularly affects the quantity and quality of the work they do, with 68 percent saying they have trouble concentrating because they're so sleepy.

Research has shown that we all become sleepy between 1 and 3 p.m., and even a little shuteye can refresh us enough to continue working at a better performance level for the rest of the day, USA Today reports.

More importantly, accidents can be prevented if sleepy drivers are kept from getting behind the wheel or near heavy machinery.

Yet, napping on the job is not too popular in a culture that has promoted the 24/7 lifestyle, including longer hours on the job and being constantly on call through cell phones and pagers.

But such a lifestyle, experts tell USA Today, will cost us all in the end. Workers who are sleep deprived are much more likely to be irritable, depressed, have more physical illnesses and miss more work.

Napping on the job is easily facilitated, according to the newspaper. Employers can set up a "quiet" space where employees can go and relax (experts recommend sleeping no more than 30 minutes). If an employee has an office, this can be easily done by posting a note on the door not to be disturbed and turning off the phone. Or, a worker can even go to his/her car, recline the seat, and take a brief nap.

Employers also can support napping by:

-- Educating workers on what sleep deprivation does to their bodies, and how it affects others. Overall, it is estimated that Americans get at least 20 percent less sleep now than they did 100 years ago, and that sleep deprivation has been shown to affect everything from decision making to listening to others.

-- At the same time, workers who are missing sleep continue to get up by 5 a.m., even though their bodies need more rest, and believe they should give up sleep in order to get other things done. Workers must understand that getting enough sleep should be a priority, and physicians can help if they are suffering from sleep problems.

-- Targeting Generation Y. Believe it or not, it is the young who are the most sleepy, according to USA Today. The NSF found that those between 18-29 years old are the most sleep deprived, and their daytime sleepiness is often comparable to shift workers'. Handling work-related stress is often more difficult for younger employees because they are sleepy, and are even late because they can't get out of bed in the mornings.

To view the USA Today story, click here.

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