April 8, 2002 -- Close the office door. Hold your calls. Put your head on your keyboard. It's National Workplace Napping Day.
"It's time for workplace nappers to lie down and be counted," says William Anthony, repeating one of the slogans of his napping advocacy organization, the Napping Company.
Anthony, a Boston University professor, created today's unofficial holiday with his wife Camille, also an outspoken napping advocate.
"We're going to take it one nap at a time, but it is going forward," he insists.
Anthony admits Workplace Napping Day — this is the third year the Anthonys have publicized the event — sounds a little frivolous, but he insists there are countless good reasons to take his cause seriously.
"The science [supporting the value of napping] continues to grow," he says, citing several recent studies on sleep deprivation. "Napping improves your productivity and your mood."
Americans could certainly use the extra ZZZs.
A 2001 survey by the National Sleep Foundation found that 63 percent of Americans do not get enough sleep.
One in five respondents admitted being so sleepy during the day that it interfered with their activities at least a few days a week.
But the survey found that most people didn't plan on changing their lifestyles, even though they realized they were sleep-deprived.
"We are a chronically sleep deprived society," says Dr. James Wyatt, a sleep disorders specialist at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago. "Compared to about 100 years ago, we're getting about one and a half hours less sleep [a night]."
Napping Can Help, But Stigma Persists
An afternoon nap doesn't make up for lack of sleep, but it can tremendously helpful, experts say.
"It's a good idea. Put a note on the door and nod out for 15 minutes," recommends Dr. Amanda Beck, the medical director of the Sleep Disorder Center of the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.
Even a 15 minute snooze under less than ideal circumstances can rejuvenate an exhausted worker, she says.
"In a lot of ways, having a nap is lot better than a cup of coffee."
But Beck admits there are few companies that actively encourage napping.
"There's still that three-toed sloth idea that if you take a nap you're lazy," she says.
Napping advocates suggest firms are afraid of ridicule from competitors, clients, and shareholders, if they openly condone snoozing during business hours.
But there are companies that have opened their eyes to the apparent benefits of napping.
Yarde Metals in Bristol, Conn., for instance, has installed specially built nap rooms in its new buildings. Officials at the company say it has dramatically improved employee morale and productivity, especially among shift workers.
All employees are encouraged to nod off on their lunch hours, if they think it's helpful.
"I go to my car during lunch," says one employee, Joy Chromy. "It was a little awkward at first, but it really helped."
For this year's National Workplace Napping day, Yarde is holding a "Napapalooza" to raise money for homeless children.
Changing Minds, One Nap at a Time
Anthony, the founder of the napping advocacy group, insists that napping policies are rarely abused.
"We start with what we call a nap-friendly policy," he says. "Say on your break you're free to nap, just like you're free to smoke, go for a walk, and so on.
"We're not talking about a siesta."
The Napping Company cites a host of famous historical figures who they say were prodigious nappers, including John F. Kennedy, Winston Churchill, Thomas Edison, Napoleon Bonaparte, Bill Clinton, and Ronald Reagan.
Civil servants in the small German town of Vechta have official permission to take brief naps after lunch, either at home or in their offices.
"Even if it's a drop in the bucket, there are more companies listening," says Dr. Mark Rosekind, president of Alertness Solutions, a scientific consulting firm dealing with sleep issues.