Posted by: whatrosewrites | July 28, 2010

monkey sleepy, nap good

The other day I grabbed the Canadian Business magazine (May 10, 2010 edition) since the cover title “Exhausted” caught my eye. Joanna Pachner wrote a good article titled “Drained” (p. 54). Although the slant was more economically driven (at first) with stats about the billions of dollars it winds up costing many industries when workers are sleep deprived (resulting in absenteeism, costly mistakes, poor quality work), the deeper social/health impact was also covered (albeit more business man vs. working mom). But hey, this is a business magazine, after all. Wait a sec, aren’t working moms also in the business world?

Since we spend a third of our life asleep, it must be important. And yet, most of us get an hour and a half LESS than we require every night. Re-known sleep scientist, Mark Rosekind led a NASA study which found a short nap can boost a worker’s output by 34%. We were meant to have two sleep periods within 24 hours. Since body temperature decreases between 2 – 4 pm, this is the ideal time frame for a 20 – 45 minute nap (short enough to prevent entering those deeper stages of sleep, you know, where you feel too groggy afterwards). I heard somewhere that a 20 minute nap is more revitalizing than three cups of coffee. Some cultures have long maintained the afternoon siesta; surprisingly, even in some parts of Japan (as “driven” as their economy is). In warm-climate farming countries, when mid-day was too hot to work, people took a nap.

So how does sleep help? We still do not understand all of the benefits. The proven ones include: sustaining the immune system, balancing hormones (perhaps more of an issue for women than men), repairing body tissues, and helping the brain process and store information. Adequate sleep appears to eliminates biases that can influence conscious thought, it helps us reach rational decisions and solve complex problems. One study even showed that adequate REM (rapid eye movement) sleep can boost creative powers, insight and problem solving by 40%.

A paper titled “Sleep Affecting Work…or Vice Versa?” by C.C. Holland (April 28, 2008) mentioned interesting findings from University of Michigan’s sociologist Sarah Burgard. Historically, she stated that demanding physical work, resulting in physical fatigue, led to restorative sleep. In our modern era, psychological strain at work (70% of which involved conflict with co-workers or bosses) does the opposite – making it MORE difficult to sleep. The conclusion: work relations affect sleep more than the actual hours logged (including overtime and weekend work). Relations with co-workers and bosses affected quality sleep even more than the fear of job loss and shift changes (including those who rotate through day, afternoon, and night shifts). The research findings were from the University of Michigan (2008) and involved 2,300 adults followed over the course of ten years.

Workplace bullying has reared its ugly head again. Sadly, women engage in this practice (bullying other women) more often than men do (to each other) reportedly 71% of the time. This data is based on results of a 2008 study by the Workplace Bullying Institute and Zogby International. Guess it is tell-tale that a WBI (Workplace Bullying Institute) actually exists – and has been around since the early 90’s. Personally, I have felt bullied in the workplace and yes, it has been predominantly women who were doing it.

So what do we do about it? Well, there are numerous sleep aids available including special pillows, head bands, sleep retreats, devices and perhaps (the most lucrative) prescription drugs which can lead to addiction. But overwhelmingly, the sleep experts say the simplest solution (and safest) is to take a nap. The bottom line: managers and bosses need to take control of toxic workplace environments and not ignore the damage done by workplace bullies. Second, companies like Mountain Equipment Co-op, Nike and Pizza Hut have implemented nap breaks and provided employees with nap rooms. Let’s not frown upon someone who takes a short nap during the day. Third, enforce policies regarding maximum hours worked within 24 hours and within the week. Preliminary studies (which require more replication) have found that a lack of sleep seems to increase the likelihood of developing diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity. Fourth, we need to “leave work at work” – cell, smartphones and secure company portals have created anytime, unlimited remote access to work. As Washington State University’s Hans P.A. Van Donge, PhD (of the Sleep and Performance Research Center) stated, “We get caught up in this mode of being available ALL the time. It’s not as valuable as we believe.” Mark Rosekind pointedly asks, “Which person do you want on the job, the one with 34% better performance (after a nap) and 100% more alert – or the other guy?”

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