Sleep. Most of us wish we could get more of it while many others stand firmly by phrases like, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” However, this glorification of sleep loss and chronic sleep deprivation as attempts to get more done and be more productive are harmful stereotypes that are more likely to ruin a productive day rather than create one. Luckily, many big businesses are taking steps to retrain the way that their employees think about sleep and its importance for workplace productivity.
How Many Hours Do You Really Need?
Unfortunately, there’s no singular answer to this question, and each person will have slightly varying needs to maximize the productivity gathered from a good night’s rest—we’ll call this “sleep productivity.”
While most experts recommend getting at least 7 hours of sleep each night, there are others who will slightly disagree. For example, acclaimed sleep researcher Daniel Kripke maintains that the “8 hours each night” we hear commonly cited may be a myth. In his latest research, he found that the perfect amount of sleep might lie somewhere between 6.5 and 7.5 hours each night for those hoping to maximize their sleep productivity. Kripke maintains that those who sleep for this amount on a regular basis live longer, happier, and more productive lives.
Surprisingly, he also mentions that sleeping for 8.5 hours may be even worse than sleeping for only 5 hours.
So, what’s the answer? Is sleeping for 8 hours too much? Is less than 7 too little when it comes to maximizing the productivity we gain from sleep?
Sleep Needs and Age
There’s another factor to consider, as well—our sleep needs change as we age. Yes, this means that we will spend much of our lives consistently adapting to our developing requirements and finding the perfect amount of sleep to keep us productive during the day.
While newborns need to sleep for up to 17 hours each day (a dream for some of us chronically sleep-deprived busy bees), a high school student hoping to maximize productivity at school and in extracurriculars will need 8 to 10 hours, according to sleep expert and psychology professor Natalie Dautovich, Ph.D.
College and graduate students, as well as adults in the workforce, can get by with a bit less sleep—7 to 9 hours a night—and adults older than 65 will function well with 7 or 8 hours of sleep each night. Dr. Dautovich cites these numbers as recommendations from the National Sleep Foundation. All of these numbers are based on huge amounts of data collected by sleep researchers, though the figures don’t account for differences in individual needs.
These numbers are likely to be the ideal amount of sleep required for the best overall functioning. If we’re talking solely about sleep productivity, however, there may be variations.
Sleeping on the Job: More Likely than You Think
Regardless of the precise number of hours and minutes which will yield the most productive days, America remains a tired nation.
It probably doesn’t surprise you that 40% of Americans get less than the recommended hours of sleep per night and that the average American sleeps only 6.8 hours each night. While some researchers like Kripke think that this amount of sleep is optimal, plenty of American employees continue to find themselves sleep-deprived on the job.
In fact, more than half of American employees sleep on the job according to results found from a poll surveying 1,001 people. These statistics have led some to wonder whether or not installing sleep pods in the workplace and allowing for employee nap time may actually increase productivity. Sure, it sounds a little bit like a return to kindergarten, but sleep pods may not be such a bad idea after all.
The Concept of Sleep Pods
In an effort to encourage a well-rested workforce, many large companies in the tech industry (think Google, Facebook, and NASA) are installing nap pods to encourage their employees to get some shut-eye. These pods look a bit like something from a science fiction movie, coming in all shapes and sizes as worldwide demand increases.
As more and more companies are de-stigmatizing the idea of sleeping on the job, the world of business is slowly realizing that napping at work isn’t such a horrible thing, after all. However, some deep societal change will be necessary before the “taboo” of too much sleep is removed from the entrepreneurial world, though the increasing prevalence of sleep pods means that we’re definitely on our way.
Will Sleep Pods Increase Workplace Productivity?
The thought behind providing these nap pods is that rejuvenated employees can more fully embrace creative ideas while working happier and more productive workdays. There’s plenty of research to back this up, too—a 20-minute nap during the day can work wonders to improve your mood, awareness, and stress levels.
Thus far, employers are seeing positive changes in their employees who choose to utilize nap pods for a mid-afternoon snooze. For one thing, employees utilizing these nap pods are experiencing increased sleep productivity at the end of the day, and they’re less cranky, too—there’s a lot to be said for improved moods on the job and the way that sleep deprivation can severely hinder communication between employees.
Perhaps nap pods truly are the answer to the sleep productivity problem after all!
At the end of the day, there is truly no “one size fits all” answer to the question of how much sleep one might need to maximize their productivity. However, massive accumulated sleep debt can be harmful to workplace performance, and consistently getting a decent night’s sleep is far more valuable than sleeping only 5 hours one night and 10 hours the next.
Most important is that we work to change the way we view sleep. Getting a full night’s rest isn’t lazy—it’s smart, and taking a nap could even be considered a strategic move rather than a sign of disengagement or poor performance.