Yelena Shmulenson works two jobs in Manhattan, and is sleep-deprived.
She says her workload is nonstop and she can go a week working as an administrative assistant at a boutique law firm without getting up for lunch.
At night, she pursues an acting career, often getting home late. What suffers is her sleep. So for the past two years, she pays to go to what she calls her "oasis" in the city, a spa which offers nap rooms for clients. For $17, she can take a 20-minute power nap that keeps her going for the rest of the day. Shmulenson says, "It really does the trick."
Her company, like a majority nationwide, frowns upon employees dozing off at work. In fact, in many cases napping on the job is a fireable offense. But new research from the Society of Human Resource Management shows this year more employers are slowly building nap rooms for workers to get some shut-eye during the day.
It's a relatively new concept with a 1% uptick this year, according to the group's survey, which says 6 percent of employers provide nap rooms compared to 5 percent last year.
Sleep experts say bosses are realizing the benefits of a power nap.
"In most workplaces, especially workplaces involving safety, you want your workers to be maximally alert, and napping is actually a good strategy to maintain alertness," says Dr. Thomas Balkin of the National Sleep Foundation. "So during slow periods, scheduled naps, if you're napping in a safe place, being offline, that's the best strategy to maintain alertness," he says.
Recent news of air traffic controllers falling asleep on the job has put the issue in the spotlight. New Federal Aviation Administration and U.S. Department of Transportation rules require controllers to have at least nine hours off between shifts to combat fatigue at work. Transportation secretary Ray LaHood says he doesn't support the idea of nap periods for controllers while on the clock, something the National Transportation Safety Board suggested recently.
Sleep researchers suggest, "If you're really serious about giving your workers eight hours of sleep which is about ideal for an adult, then you should give them 12 hours off between shifts. That'll give them enough time to commute, eat, bathe, socialize, watch TV, read the paper, do things they want to do. If you don't give them enough time to do those things and sleep, it's going to cut into their sleep time," Balkin says.
For Shmulenson, she says she's going to continue to invest in trying to make that time up, because she truly believes in the value of a power nap. "At the end of the year during taxes, I look at it and say to myself, I really spent money on napping, but on the other hand, it works," Shmulenson says.