Japan has sleeping rooms at work: Here’s why you shouldn’t feel guilty for an afternoon nap

Nothing beats the perfect nap that leaves you re-energised and ready to attack the rest of your day. Unfortunately, they’re hardly seen as appropriate in the workplace…but this might slowly be changing.

Companies in Japan are reportedly starting to cotton on to the many benefits of a siesta, building dedicated areas in offices where employees can have a quick snooze. This is a bid to tackle “sleep debt” – the cumulative deficit from not getting enough sleep that so many of us build up.

A lack of sleep can affect your work performance and generally slow you down, and a speedy nap can help tackle this. Here are just some of the many health benefits of taking some time out for an afternoon sleep.

They can improve your cognitive function

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Nothing is worse than trying to survive a busy work day after a terrible night’s sleep. Your brain feels woolly and simple tasks seem almost impossible.

However, a short nap can sort you right out, because studies show they can boost your cognitive function. This study found that 10 minutes of catching some Z’s can “significantly” improve alertness and cognitive performance – essentially it can help your brain work a bit better.

Not only this, but a siesta can also improve your memory – according to this study. However, it’s worth noting that these studies focus on ultra-short naps – between six and 10 minutes – rather than sleeping for hours in the middle of the afternoon. That might make the idea easier to sell to your boss.

They can lower your blood pressure

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It’s perhaps no coincidence that Mediterranean and Latin American countries favour an afternoon nap, and also tend to have lower mortality rates from coronary disease.

Citing this data, this study wanted to look into the phenomenon. It found that a siesta (or even just lying down for a spell in the afternoon) “is associated with a 37% reduction in coronary mortality” and can lower your blood pressure.

They can re-energise you

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If you’re struggling to stay awake, it’s almost expected for you to reach for truckloads of caffeine and hope for the best. Countless studies have been done into the effect of coffee on your sleep – it stimulates you so you might have more energy to crack on with work, but it has the drawbacks of potentially ruining your eight hours that night and it does nothing to deal with the overall sleep debt.

Compare this to a quick nap, which can boost your energy levels – it’s called a “power nap” for a reason.

In order to feel as alert as possible post-nap, you need to time it pretty carefully. Sleep.org recommends snoozing for 20 minutes, which means you wake up before hitting the deeper stage of sleep. If you have more time, a 90-minute nap is the next best thing because by then you’ve gone through the cycle and are back into the lighter stage of sleep. Sleep.org also says a 90-minute sleep has the benefit of boosting creativity which is no bad thing if you’re heading back to work afterwards.

They can reduce stress and boost your immune system

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Many people suffer from a sleep deficit because of stress. Niggling thoughts have the irritating ability to keep you up for hours, which can really build up your sleep debt.

Luckily, an afternoon snooze can help with this too. According to a study published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism in 2015, a short nap helps relieve stress and boosts the immune systems of sleep-deprived men.

“Our data suggests a 30-minute nap can reverse the hormonal impact of a night of poor sleep,” said one of the study’s authors, Brice Faraut of the Université Paris Descartes-Sorbonne Paris Cité.  “This is the first study that found napping could restore biomarkers of neuroendocrine and immune health to normal levels.”

Particularly in winter when work is piling up and germs are rampant, these benefits are definitely welcome.

- Press Association


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