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Nap Your Way to the Top

Unleash the power of the siesta: Sleeping at work makes employees happier, healthier, and more productive.

The evidence is overwhelming: Napping on the job is great for you and great for your boss. A power nap of about 20 minutes has been proven to increase alertness and overall productivity in workers. Siestas also boost mood. "Remember when your mother told you to take a nap because you were cranky? She was right," says William Anthony, who co-authored The Art of Napping at Work with his wife Camille.

Anthony, who has a comfy couch with a homemade afghan blanket in his office at Boston University's Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation, says the post-nap energy spike can last for several hours. Though he's long touted napping's cognitive boon, he's currently excited by the cumulating evidence that nappers reap physical benefits, as well: A large, six-year study of Greek adults found that men who took a siesta at least three times per week had a 37 percent lower risk of heart-related death.

Yet most bosses still grimace at the thought of a company-wide naptime. "People think nappers are slothful or lazy," Anthony says. "Look at the words surrounding napping: stealing a nap or getting caught napping—they're all pejorative." Employers often remark to Anthony that they aren't paying people to sleep. But maybe they don't know that the return on an investment in an employee nap is much greater than that of the already given lunch, coffee, and cigarette breaks.

There is one New York City-based company, however, where workers risk getting fired for NOT taking their siestas. MetroNaps offers "fatigue mitigation" services for companies big and small, including sleep assessments (testing and interviews to determine if employees are sleep-deprived and how that may be affecting their work) and the installation of futuristic bed-chairs called EnergyPods. Company headquarters also has a quiet retreat in the Empire State Building for clients to sleep during the day.

As a young banker, MetroNaps founder Arshad Chowdhury noticed his co-workers taking naps in the back bathroom stalls to avoid getting reprimanded. After testing the concept of charging people to snooze, he started his company in 2004 and is convinced that our culture's discriminatory attitude toward napping is letting up. Cisco and Google are among his newest clients, and more hospitals are ordering EnergyPods for exhausted heath-care providers.

Anthony's informal surveys have revealed that while women are more sleep-deprived—for a combination of physiological and social reasons, such as their tendency to bear the brunt of childcare—they report more fear of napping during work hours. "We were going to do a book on that but we haven't yet," Anthony says. "I guess we've been napping too much."