WORKPLACE / FEB. 20, 2014
version 6, draft 6

Why Your Boss Wants You to Sleep on the Job


Assisted power napping is fast becoming fashionable in the corporate world. Where sleeping on the job could once get you fired, bosses are now investing in sleep dens and sleep technology for their staff because it is believed that power napping improves productivity.

Harvard researchers calculated that US employers missed out on $63 billion in 2011 due to sleep deprivation of employees. Add to this staggering figure the percentage of people who do not get enough sleep -30 per cent- and you can understand that sleep professionals do not have a very hard sell when they approach corporate executives with their soothing solutions.

Seizable organizations like Procter & Gamble, Goldman Sachs, NASA, Google, Ben & Jerry all have embraced sleep technology on the work floor, and smaller companies are rapidly following suit. Inc. com reports that OnSwipe, a software shop in Manhattan encourages employees to zonk out whenever they want in the office. A similar openness toward sleeping during office hours was adopted by Pontiflex, a start up specializing in mobile apps, as well as by its peers AZ, headquartered in Scottsdale, AZ. Information technology consultants at 42 Inc., in Berkeley, CA are into dozing off at work too. And that is only a handful of examples but there are many, many more companies that are interested in well-rested employees only.

Sleeping perks are perhaps not as widespread as gym memberships yet, but they boast a novelty value which makes them much talked about, not in the least because the sleep experts that get a foot in the door come up with astounding technologies to facilitate employees to be switched-on and keen-eyed.

Take the salespitch of for instance of Kamil Adamczyk, the ceo of Intelclinic in San Francisco, who is selling sleep masks that allow you to take power naps instead of sleeping through the night. He asserts that humans should be taking their cue from animals for their sleeping habits. Most human beings sleep once every 24 hours, but animals take a succession of naps around the clock.

Animals, are according to the experts at Intelclinic’s labs, more in tune with their natural physical rhythm and humans who wish to be more productive should adopt this ‘polyphasic’ sleep pattern. Apparently, polyphasic sleep can be taught relatively easily and, with the right technology, could give you up to an entire extra day per week.

Apple’s decision to hire Dutch sleep guru Roy Raymann for its iWatch team of course has also led to much hype in the media. Raymannn is a self professed expert into ‘how to optimize rest and activity’, ‘non-pharmacological approaches to promote sleep’, and ‘interpretation of ambulatory physiological and biomechanical data’ and will likely work on a sleep sensor for the eagerly awaited upcoming iWatch. Raymann previously founded the Philips Sleep Experience Laboratory, a non-clinical sleep research facility.

Other sleep experts are instructing employees how to best relax and use different methods and technology. There is a dearth of sleep technology apps available, some of which make a lot of sense. And we are only beginning to scratch the surface, because most of the things we know about sleep have only emerged in the past 20 or so years. There are still very many unanswered questions surrounding the subject of sleep, consciousness and unconscious processes.

One of the most influential studies into the effects of power napping took place in 2010 and was carried out by researchers at Berkely. They concluded that taking a power nap in the middle of the day ensures that you move beyond where you were before at a neurocognitive level and makes you smarter.

Famous power nappers were Winston Churchill, Leonardo Da Vinci, Nikola Tesla, Thomas Edison and more recently Buckminster Fuller. Margaret Thatcher famously needed only four hours of sleep a night. She would commandeer her speechwriters until the early hours of the morning and still be up in time to hear Farmers World at seven a.m.  

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