USA: Take an afternoon nap on your way to the top.

USA: Take an afternoon nap on your way to the top. - Clinton does it, so did Kennedy, Reagan and Churchill. Lord Hanson, Richard Branson and John Harvey-Jones are open advocates of it, and a number of other leading business figures no doubt do it regular

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Clinton does it, so did Kennedy, Reagan and Churchill. Lord Hanson, Richard Branson and John Harvey-Jones are open advocates of it, and a number of other leading business figures no doubt do it regularly on the quiet. Power-napping looks likely to make another appearance as a corporate hot topic this April, when its inventor, James Maas, comes to the UK to promote his new book, Miracle Sleep Cure.

It's a serious scientific issue, claims Maas, who coined the term 15 years ago to distinguish a quick afternoon nap from the ubiquitous power-lunch. Surveys in the US show that 75% of people admit to feeling sleepy during the day, and an estimated 70-80 million people in the country are sleep-deprived - they just don't get enough of the stuff. But a short nap during the mid-afternoon trough, Maas argues, is an easy and effective way to catch up on 'sleep-debt'.

'I tell people that instead of taking a coffee or coke break, they should put their head down for 15 to 20 minutes,' he says. 'People lie down on couches, or under their desks, and some even sit on the toilet for 10 minutes. I know workers would need to work less if they sleep more because they would become more efficient.'

The issue of napping has been given attention recently as airlines debate whether to let their pilots nap during long-haul flights - and whether or not to tell the public they are doing it. Some US companies are incorporating nap rooms for shift workers, and power-nap executive chairs are now on the market which recline, massage your head and envelop it in darkness, have built-in audio decks for playing relaxing music, and alarm clocks to wake you up.

Other corporations, such as Eastman Kodak, PepsiCo and Seagram are 'listening to what I have to say', says Maas, 'so power-naps are not frowned upon as a waste of time or a sign of slothfulness.' The top managements of Pizza Hut and IBM are also believed to indulge in the occasional after-lunch snooze. But over here, Maas may well have some persuading to do, as not one company questioned admitted to doing it. IBM, for instance, explained that 'no one practices power-napping formally, although some executives might do it in the US,' and that its chairman Khalil Barsoum 'doesn't do it, even though he does long days'.

Industry commentators also remain unconvinced. 'I can't imagine businesses taking it on, except perhaps some eccentric director trying to persuade his workforce to do it,' says Nigel Nicholson of the London Business School's department of organisational behaviour.

But Cary Cooper of UMIST's school of management, can see its benefits: 'All they're trying to do is be able to sustain and cope with a long working day. Senior managers' hours are getting longer and harder, particularly as they cut back the labour force. There are less support systems and more travelling.' So what about Richard Branson, who is famous for his love of a good nap?

According to his press man, Will Whitehorn, there's no great philosophical or scientific rationale here. He's just good at falling asleep. 'He can nap on the back of a bus in the middle of China, anywhere,' he recalls.

'After we'd rescued him in the Algerian desert from the hot air balloon crash, he sat down in the back of the aeroplane and dropped off to sleep.'.

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