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Sleep: How Do You Know Enough Is Enough?

Catching a quick nap is smart business at these five firms.

Sleeping on the job was once considered taboo, but today, more and more companies are encouraging employees to take a mid-shift snooze. And it’s a wise practice: 29 percent of workers report falling asleep or becoming very sleepy at work, and a lack of sleep costs the United States $63 billion each year in lost productivity. But a short twenty-minute nap can boost alertness and improve performance—both important when you’re on the job.

Many companies with a strong commitment to employee wellness recognize the benefits of on-site napping. “We look out for our employees’ quality of life, and providing space and time for naps is just another way for us to take care of the people who work there,” says a representative at the Burlington, Vermont-based Ben & Jerry’s. The company, which offers employees yoga classes and personal trainers and encourages staffers to bring their canine pals to work, also supplies a room with a bed and pillows that employees can use as needed. “If people need to catch a little snooze during the day to do the best possible job they can do, we’re behind it,” says the representative.

Similarly, Zappos, the online shoe retailer known for fully subsidized employee health insurance, has had a nap room at their Las Vegas, Nevada, headquarters since they launched. “It was born from our focus on employee happiness and wellness,” says a representative. “We know how much sleep impacts well-being.” Furnished with a couch, two recliners, a beanbag chair, and more, the rooms are available 24/7, and are especially frequented by those on staff who work overnight shifts.

The athletic giant Nike is said to extend its commitment to health and wellness to employee benefits; at their headquarters near Portland, Oregon, staffers enjoy quiet rooms, where they can nap or even meditate during the day. And at Google’s Mountain View, California, home base, employees take advantage of campus-wide nap pods, which are futuristic-looking lounge chairs that play soothing sounds so workers can catch a quick snooze when they need one.

Of course, employee well-being is just one benefit to company-sponsored napping. Another important bonus: improved employee performance. In the 1990s, NASA recognized sleep’s crucial role for astronauts and experimented with short naps during their workdays. Not surprisingly, performance skyrocketed; today, the “NASA nap” is a common practice among pilots making international flights for airlines such as Continental and British Airways.

At the Huffington Post’s New York City headquarters, the online newspaper considers workday naps an important productivity enhancement. “I’ve used the nap room here for resting my eyes for a few minutes and for taking full-on power naps,” says Amanda Chan, managing editor of the site’s Healthy Living Channel. Taking a quick (or extended) rest helps her stay up to the task of cranking out new content around the clock. According to a company representative, the company-furnished rest spaces require reservations—and they’re typically booked solid.