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Ask Sue
A Weekly Q&A Column About Professionalism, Etiquette and Problems in the Workplace
by Sue Morem

Is Napping at Work Okay?

Dear Sue: Is it okay for me to sleep during a break at work? On more than one occasion, Iíve used my lunch or break time to sleep. I donít see anything wrong with putting my head on my desk when I am tired, but my coworker does. I say Iím not sleeping on the jobóIím sleeping on my break. He disagrees. He says itís not ever acceptable to sleep at work. Who's right?

- Sleepy

Sue says: You both are. You shouldnít be sleeping when youíre supposed to be working. If you use your break to sleep and wake up in time to get back to work when you should, thereís no reason you shouldnít be able to sleep on your break. However, where you sleep may be a bigger issue than the sleeping itself.

Itís one thing for someone to walk by and see you eating lunch at your desk, and another to walk by seeing you sleeping at your desk! You might know youíre napping instead of eating, but other people may not.

Sleepiness on the job is a common and growing problem. The results of the National Sleep Foundationís 2002 Sleep in America Poll found that over 80% of American adults link inadequate sleep with impaired daytime performance and behavior. Lack of enough sleep can make it difficult to perform daily activities and produce quality work. When sleepy, it is more difficult to make careful, thought-out decisions or listen carefully to others.

Inadequate sleep can lead to costly and dangerous mistakes, yet two-thirds of those surveyed say they are likely to accept their sleepiness and keep going, disregarding its effects.

Napping at work can be valuable--it is the norm in some European countries, and a growing number of American companies are providing nap rooms to allow their employees to sleep on the job.

Most sleepiness is due to the lack of enough quality sleep. For a better nights sleep, NSF recommends going to bed and waking up the same time every day, regular exercise, less (or no) caffeine, and avoiding nicotine and alcohol. Never eat a heavy meal or drink too many fluids late at night. Unwinding before going to bed can help ensure a good night's sleep; try to establish a relaxing routine.

Get to the root of your sleepiness, and rule out any medical conditions causing your drowsiness.

If youíre still requiring sleep at work, using your breaks to sleep could be the solution. Talk with your superiors before you make it a habit, and determine the best place for you to take your naps. Gaining their support is important, and will prevent any misunderstandings about your ability to stay awake at work.

Sleep responsibly: Always wake up on time (a vibrating alarm clock is advised), and donít sleep in public if you suspect you snore. If your sleep begins to disrupts others, youíll be dealing with a bigger, and much more embarrassing, problem.

Sue Morem is a professional speaker, trainer and syndicated columnist. She is author of the newly released 101 Tips for Graduates and How to Gain the Professional Edge, Second Edition. You can contact her by email at or visit her web site at

Send Sue your questions by clicking here: Ask Sue
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