The Dichotomy Of The American Sleep Deficit And How It's Affecting Productivity

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In a post-lunch haze, I sit at my desk going through a stack of papers that have been accumulating since the turn of the century... I can feel my brain slowly trying to shut down. The umpteen cups of coffee from this morning have run their course, and I’m already over this day. If only I could just close my eyes and recharge. My tired eyes begin looking for places that may be suitable for a quick power nap, and the only place that seems out of the way and spacious enough is under my desk. It’s Tuesday afternoon, and I’m seriously contemplating, if only for a moment, crawling under my desk for a power nap.

Don’t judge me. I’m not the first member of Team Corporate America to entertain this notion.

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), tiredness at work is more than an inconvenience; it is proven to lower concentration levels, reduce memory, and generally put a sizable dent in productivity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that at least 30 percent of America’s workforce is sleeping less than six hours a night, that’s a lot of employees potentially making a lot of needless errors on the job.

Why do we do this to ourselves? I recently read up on Japan and their open-armed embrace of the power nap. Apparently, Japan encourages brief naps to help sharpen the blade of mental acuity that diminishes as the day wears on. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the Japanese sleep an average of six hours and some change per night, not that different than Americans, but when you factor in encouraged naps to help power through the second part of the work day, it’s no wonder that that Japanese report higher sleep satisfaction than anyone else.

Imagine a world where snoozing on the job isn’t frowned upon. We shrug off the little errors made here and there, drink our coffee, and press on, but we aren’t seeing the big picture. It’s not just the typo we made on a report or the tiny miscalculation. Did you know, according to NCBI, that sleepiness was a factor in the Chernoble incident? Not to mention the Challenger explosion and the Exxon Valdez oil spill, to name a few.

What are we doing here? We’re literally working ourselves to death, and to what end? This fervent pace that we keep isn’t benefiting anyone, lastly ourselves. Harvard Medical School has found that consistent lack of sleep can contribute to heart disease, obesity, and even lower our life expectancy. No one wins here.

But before we start packing up our belongings and moving to Japan, there’s a little solace in knowing that there are actually a few companies in our little corner of the world that actually embrace the napping concept too, such as Ben and Jerry’s, Zappos, Nike, and the Huffington Post. It’s a small start, but it’s a step in the right direction.

In the meanwhile I will continue to contemplate the ramifications of a mid day slumber at my desk whilst the rest of corporate America catches up with the rest of the world.

Melynda Sorrels is a writer, student, reckless blogger, dreamer and aficionado of all things funny or caffeinated. For more musings, check out the up and coming blog at DespiteAllLogic.Blogspot.Com.