VERIFY: Is Napping At Work Good For You?

Verify: Do we need naps?

Everyone loves a good nap, right? And guess what?  Some tech companies, like Apple, Google, Facebook and Uber are getting attention for actually encouraging their employees to nap on-the-job.

Those workers must love that. 

But, here's what I really want to know… is the trend of napping-at-work actually good for us?

BOSSES THAT NAP

“People are so worked up about naps being a sign of weakness,” I say to producer Chance Horner as we drive to our first stop on this adventure.

“Because they are. It's like you can't make it through the day without having to take a little nappy time,” Chance says.

We’re headed to a business, where taking a nap doesn't put you in the cross hairs with the boss.

And here, Stan Richards is the boss. He’s the founder Richards Advertising Group. At 85, he oversees 750 employees and loves to sprint up the steps inside his office.

“Are you a two-at-a-time guy?” I ask Stan, as we breeze up the stairs.

“I'm a two-at-a-time guy,” Stan says.

Richards just built a gleaming new office tower.  And guess what he included? Four rooms dedicated to 30-minute naps. Both of us take a nap in the darkened rooms, then come out to chat.

“A lot of industries would say the same thing, ‘We have to get our thing done at the end of the day. The nap gets in the way of getting the thing done,” I say.

“When you take a nap early in the afternoon the rest of the rest of day, you'll be more productive, if you did otherwise,” Stan says.

“But haven't I already lost a half hour of work, if I go to the nap room?  Isn't that lost productivity?” I ask.
 
“It is. But you make up for it. This is the kind of environment, where we trust people to get their work done,” Stan says.

And if you dig in, the science on naps is pretty convincing.  

This widely-cited research was done in Greece, where afternoon naps, called siestas, are common. It was published in the Journal of American Medicine. It found naps lowered the risk of dying from a heart attack by about one-third. 

And research done in Germany found a 30-minute nap "significantly enhances" long term memory performance.  Even a 6-min nap is "sufficient to significantly boost" memory.

“How do you know it's making a difference?” I ask Stan.

“I just know, for me, that when I take a little nap I'm refreshed and go through the rest of the afternoon and never get that feeling of 'Oh, I'm tired,” he says.

A VISIT TO THE SLEEP CLINIC

What's going on inside the brain while we nap?

Stacy Harris, at Sleep Healers, is helping me find out by hooking me up with wires that will track my breathing, brain waves and body movements.

“If you actually go to sleep, I only expect to see stages one and two. If you hit a deep sleep, if you hit REM, you did not get enough sleep last night,” Stacy tells me.

While I settle in for a 30-minute nap, let's check in with Dr. Margaret Mike. She's a neurologist, board certified in sleep medicine. She says 20-30 minutes is all you need from a nap. Anything longer, she says, and you’ll wake up groggy.

“Are naps good for you?” I ask Dr. Mike.

“Naps can help supplement if you haven't been able to get enough sleep one night. Deadlines, taking care of children, thunderstorms. But if we need them every day, we have to say, ‘What's the deficiency? Why isn't our nighttime sleep restorative enough?’" Dr. Mike asks.

For Dr. Mike, the benefits of an occasional nap are good. But the health problems associated with chronic sleepiness are really bad. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control, less than 7 hours a night can lead to obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and frequent mental distress.

So, how's my sleep? 

Stacy's monitoring me from the other room. The lines on her computer monitor give her a lot of information about the quality of my sleep.

“The breathing was real big. Then all of sudden, these little breaths. That's a restriction of the airway. And his oxygen level dropped, and it woke him up,” Stacy says.

The test showed I snored and woke myself up. But I also got a few minutes of restful sleep. That part felt good. Still, Dr. Mike is still not a huge fan of the nap.

“Should napping be part of a wellness program at work? Or is that not necessary?” I ask her.

“I think it wouldn't be necessary if they're getting good sleep at home. If they're getting enough hours of sleep. If they're getting enough sleep but still tired, then they should figure out why,” she says.

CONCLUSION

So, there are some big-time companies that encourage naps.  And there are medical benefits associated with taking naps. But according to Dr. Mike, the upside of naps are not nearly as important as the downside of chronic sleepiness.

© 2017 WFAA-TV


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