With 30 percent of employed adults reporting less than seven hours of sleep each night, it may be that one out of every three people you work with could use a nap. (Photo: ALM)

When it comes to proper sleep habits, it is clear that humans as a whole have not entirely cracked the code. So keen are we to find a way around getting the recommended amount of sleep that numerous websites tout the benefits of “alternative sleep patterns,” which supposedly help people fight the sleepiness they feel throughout the day.

While these methods do not present a magic cure, one sleep habit that might benefit humans comes from 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 (i.e. humans). And there is evidence to suggest that a good cat nap at the right time can make employees more productive.

The science of napping

According to Mayo Clinic, napping promotes relaxation, reduces fatigue, increases alertness, improves mood and reaction time and enhances memory, among other measures of performance. Napping may also 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 that are sometimes in short supply in office settings). Many cultures around the world even operate around the idea of a two-hour lunch break/afternoon nap. For most employees, though, the pressure to get things done tends to push napping to the side. That might not be what’s best for productivity, though.

Related: Large employers broadening employee health programs

Helping employees understand the value of a nap is a best interest for employers, as it improves employee health while allowing them to get more done. Luckily, it seems employers are catching on as office nap rooms are popping up across the country in places like Google, Uber, and Ben & Jerry’s.

Who needs a nap?

With 30 percent of employed adults reporting less than seven hours of sleep each night, it may be that one out of every three people you work with could use a nap. According to data from our vast health assessment database, younger employees reported being tired more often than their older colleagues. Further, women were quite a bit more likely than men to report being tired “quite often” or “almost always.” This is an indication to employers that if their workforce skews young or female, they may want to consider ways to encourage more sleep among their employees. This would include making it acceptable to nap at the office.

How can an employer help?

If you decide it’s time to begin rectifying sleep problems in your workplace, there are several good ways to start. First, there are some things to keep in mind for any change in the workplace.

  • Get a variety of perspectives. Talk to different departments or workgroups to get their thoughts on anything you’re planning to do.
  • Think about unintended consequences. Are people going to start bring pillows and cots to the office?
  • Consider the environment. If you want employees to be comfortable taking a 20-minute nap, they might need a designated room or rooms to do so.

In general, it’s important to mold any policy or change to the culture in which it will exist. A culture that already values employee well-being will probably be fairly accepting of workplace naps. Implementing employee well-being solutions, with a focus on naps and sleep, can assist your employees by offering valuable insights into sleep habits, and equipping them with the necessary tools to adjust their own sleep and nap habits.

In return, helping make employees happier and more productive individuals both inside and outside of the office.

Stefan Gingerich is senior research analyst with StayWell.