"Tumble out of bed and stumble to the kitchen. Pour myself a cup of ambition and yawn and stretch and try to come to life. Jump in the shower, and the blood starts pumpin'...For folks like me on the job from nine to five."
Thank you for allowing me to fulfill one of my dreams, the one in which I channel Dolly Parton in her hit `80s movie Nine to Five.
But more to the point: that waking life is literally killing us. Or perhaps maybe not the waking life per se, but definitely the time it's expected to start. Which means either the entire echelon of top brass in this country has got to collectively agree to push back the punch-in hour, or they've got to allow employees to make up for the sleep they lost, and will lose throughout the day, during work. And this is not just another dream of mine I'd like to see embodied in my lifetime: this is a scientific recommendation coming from scienc-y scientists in the field of science.
Apparently, our bodies know what's good for them and what's not good for them, especially when it comes to sleep or the lack thereof. As for starting the workday off at, what is for some, the crack of dawn, well, it might be to the detriment of our bodies and our business. Dr. Patrick Kelly of Oxford University has gone on the record as saying that adults under the age of 55 shouldn't have to get to work until at least 10AM. So…go Dr. Kelly!
Get it while you can. H. Armstrong Roberts / Getty Images
Kids in school and gainfully employed, non-senior adults are meant to wake up later in the day, according to the demands of their circadian rhythms, which regulate the body's waking and sleep cycles. Sleep deprivation can have serious, most often deleterious effects on our physiologies, causing confusion, illness, even intoxicated-like symptoms. They can also depress productivity at the workplace; and when productivity is depressed, so is that bottom line. Meaning that Big Business better wise up.
Now, it might be tough to shift that cockcrow a few hours later, because so much business is still taking its cue from the morning bell on Wall Street in New York, which dings at 8:30AM Eastern Time. Financial industries wake up well in time to hear it, and are ready to pounce when it resounds. Time doesn't just equal money: time follows the money, too. So as long as that's when the bell rings, there will be ears pitched to hear it.
But let's not give up hope just yet. Companies can compensate their employees for the sleep they lost coming to work so early (with regards to their body's natural needs) by permitting them to nap at work. Now, of course employees can do whatever they want on their lunch breaks "” that is, if they even have a lunch break. Though, and you may have noticed this, eating while you're sleeping is not the most enjoyable nor safe practice in the world: sleep eaters have this problem, and sometimes it can even lead to choking and death.
Rather, what some daring experts are suggesting are scheduled nap periods that workers can take advantage of to catch up on sleep, unplug and rejoice.
"Sleep for Daddy. Sleep for him."Sally Anscombe / Getty Images
But before big changes can be made, the first thing we've got to do is dissolve the stigma that's attached to taking naps. At least in America, I've found that nap-taking is synonymous with slacking off. Now, these two activities aren't necessarily co-extensive, though I've known my fair share of stoners, freeloaders, losers and hapless hipsters who've taken advantage of some shut eye to procrastinate and shirk their responsibilities.
However, I've also known abundantly productive people who've capitalized on naps not to delay their work, but to enhance it by replenishing their energy stores. A carefully timed nap can ready you for a big project and break up periods of useless, draining indolence that can often come during periods of what are supposed to great creativity. Many a Spanish novel were written just after an afternoon siesta…and a few aperitifs.
The problem is, Americans are still warming up to the idea of chilling out. It's the go-go-go mentality that made and continues to make this country's economy the most formidable in the world, but it's also the one that contributes to hypertension and general angst. Silicon Valley tech companies have been leading the charge to counteract this long-standing tendency, instituting meditation, yogic and mindfulness programs at work. That's a start.
These companies are definitely setting the new standard for what it means to have a functioning, productive and successful company that also happens to take care of the people that make it up. The use of sleep pods, structured nap breaks and scheduled snooze fests should all be encouraged, and could prove beneficial to the firm. It's worked for NASA.
European pilots protesting airlines overworking them. Carsten Koall / Getty Images
Simulation tests performed with NASA pilots found that those pilots who took 40 to 45 minute naps during the session woke up refreshed, 54 percent more alert, and performed 34 percent better on the exams. More importantly, nap sessions reduced the number of "microsleeps" the pilots suffered from in their waking hours while they were flying, which dramatically reduces the risk of an error or accident. Microsleeps are those split seconds when the mind shuts off, the eyes close, and the head bobs "” you may have experienced these while in heavy traffic with all that gorgeous scenery. During those short periods of non compos mentis, you are more prone to making a big mistake, either at work, behind the wheel or operating heavy machinery.
What it comes down to, ultimately, is just saying yes to naps. It might look weird at first, having the entire creative department breaking for 30 minutes to go have a sleepover. But they are important. Of course, standards and practices would need to be put in place to preempt any nonsense and funny business "” especially if there is a designated "nap room" where all manner of shenanigans could happen. Barring those exceptions, naps are good for business because they are good for business people. Who are really just people.