Nap your way to the top: How sleep tracking and a workday nap can be good for business

StayWell Blog, StayWell News

By Stefan Gingerich, MS, StayWell’s senior research analyst

For several weeks, we have delved into the vast reaches of StayWell health assessment data to show you some of the benefits of sleep, or inversely, the detriments of poor sleep. Today, we’ll venture outside of StayWell’s data for a bit to talk about cats. Don’t worry, though. We’ll be back.

Cats? Yes. Cats. Specifically, the sleep habits of our feline friends.

Like many mammals, cats are polyphasic sleepers, which means they sleep for multiple, shorter periods throughout the day instead of in one big block like their monophasic owners. It’s so much a part of their identity, we named a kind of napping after them.

Now, there are a lot of websites that will try and sell you the benefits of “alternative sleep patterns” and tell you that they’ll magically turn you into Leonardo di Vinci. We’re not recommending that.

However, there is evidence to suggest a good nap at the right time can make you a more productive worker.

Mayo Clinic has found that napping promotes relaxation, reduces fatigue, increases alertness, improves mood and reaction time, and enhances memory, among other measures of performance. Napping can spark a burst of creativity, and a 60-minute mid-day nap has been shown to make people less impulsive and more tolerant of frustration, two qualities I think we can all agree are sometimes in short supply in the office.

If scientific evidence isn’t your thing, how about anecdotal evidence? Young children and seniors, the two groups who have the most freedom to nap whenever the mood strikes, are fond of naps, though one of my young children was an exception to that particular trend. The ancient Romans probably took naps, and many cultures operate around the idea of a two-hour lunch break/afternoon nap. For most of us, though, the pressure to get things done tends to push napping to the side.

That might not be what’s best for productivity, though. Helping employees understand the value of a nap could be in everybody’s best interest, because it improves employee health while allowing them to get more done. Employers are catching on. Office nap rooms are popping up in places like Google, Uber, and Ben & Jerry’s. To help spread the word, StayWell’s new Sleep Well Relay Challenge features information that companies can use to educate employees about the benefits of a mid-day snooze, along with tools for evaluating and improving sleep habits.

Who needs a nap?
I suppose the short answer is “anyone who is tired and feels that it’s impeding their productivity,” but I think we can do a little bit better than that. Let’s go back to StayWell’s vast health assessment database.

When we look at the percentage of people who report being tired “quite often” or “almost always” during their waking hours, we see an inverse relationship with age. This means younger employees reporting being tired more often than their older colleagues. The chart above is based on over 700,000 employee health assessments, with over 1,000 assessments for every age (i.e. 1,000+ 21-year-olds, 1,000+ 22-year-olds, etc.).

As for the other most commonly-used demographic (gender) we found this.

Again, among more than 700,000 people, women were quite a bit more likely to report being tired “quite often” or “almost always.”

What does it mean? It means if your workforce skews young or female, you may want to consider ways to encourage them to get more sleep. One way could be taking steps to make naps at work an acceptable thing.

Know your sleep habits
A good nap is just one factor in an effective sleep schedule, and since lack of sleep is tied to health risks including obesity, high stress, and more, it’s important to understand how our sleep habits affect our health and productivity.

One way to do that is by tracking your sleep, a process that for years required going to a lab and having sensors strapped to your head and chest overnight. Now, though, a new generation of sleep trackers is changing that.

While devices you wear on your wrist, clip to a pillow, or set on a bedside table, are not as accurate as lab measurements, they are proving to be accurate enough for most users. And what they lose in fine detail they make up for in accessibility, affordability and allowing users to sleep in their normal environment.

Modern sleep trackers can tell you how long you sleep, as well as how much time you spend in the deep and light phases of sleep and how restless you were during the night. If you continually wake up groggy, this can help you understand why, and give you information to make adjustments, where needed.

Likewise, StayWell’s Sleep Well offers valuable insights into our sleep habits and the effects of these habits on the rest of our lives. It offers information about the links between sleep and weight gain, and between sleep and stress, as well as information on the benefits of napping and sleep trackers.

To learn more about StayWell Sleep Well, contact us at engage@staywell.com.

In good health,
Stefan Gingerich, MS
Senior Research Analyst

Related posts by Gingerich on the topic of sleep:

Sleep and stress and stress and sleep: A vicious cycle
Having a hard time sleeping? It might be your age 
Is lack of sleep weighing you down?
A peek behind the science and health impact of sleep
When counting sheep doesn’t work