More employers warm to power naps
A new survey says 6 percent of employers provide nap rooms for their workers, compared with 5 percent last year.
April 30th, 2011
03:57 PM ET

More employers warm to power naps

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.
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Filed under: FAA • U.S.
Reporter's family in Fukushima taking nuclear concerns in stride
Sandra Endo's grandmother, Sen Endo -- shown about two years ago with her now-late husband -- lives 50 miles from Daiichi.
March 16th, 2011
04:24 PM ET

Reporter's family in Fukushima taking nuclear concerns in stride

Editor's note: CNN reporter Sandra Endo has relatives in Fukushima, Japan, one of the areas hit hardest by Friday's 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami. Here, she writes of her relief on learning they're alive, and about her concerns about their proximity to a distressed nuclear power plant.

First it was the quake, now the radiation. The joy of finally hearing from my family in Fukushima after worrying for days is slowly becoming tepid.

My family in Los Angeles and I first heard from my 90-year-old grandmother, who lives in Fukushima City, on Tuesday night. We spent restless days and worrisome nights wondering how she was doing, wanting to hear her voice and find out her condition. We put all our faith in one text message that my cousin in Hiroshima received the night of the quake, saying that our family in Fukushima was accounted for, but what did that mean?

Besides my grandmother, my two aunts, two cousins and their four toddlers live 50 miles from the dangerously unstable Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. They took in my cousin's in-laws, who live just 10 miles from the plant.

Fukushima City is my father’s hometown. It’s a place where I spent summers playing in the streets with my cousins, going to the local ice cream shop and getting free firecrackers from neighbors during the summer festival season. It's where everyone knew whose kid you were and what shop your family ran for generations.

We were so happy to hear they all survived despite their grim stories of seeing neighbors' homes flattened, bodies being pulled from rubble and the scarcity of food and gas. Luckily, they recently installed a new water pump, which withstood the massive quake. My family was providing water for the community, because many were without.

They told us they were sealing off their house as best they could to prevent radiation from seeping in. That meant patching up one wall of the house that collapsed during the quake. The broken dishes, glass and strewn furniture didn’t matter, because all that could be replaced or cleaned. Now the worry is the radiation.

On Thursday, the U.S. Embassy in Japan issued an evacuation notice for Americans who live 50 miles from the power plant; officials found traces of radiation in the tap water in Fukushima. My family lives within that zone with no way and no place to move.

The fear is even taking hold in Tokyo, hundreds of miles south of Fukushima, where people are trying to get out of the country.

With the gas shortage, only emergency crews are fueling up, so driving is not an option for my family. My grandma says evacuation centers are already filled.

With the patience and spirit only a 90-year-old could have, she says she will wait, stay in her hometown and make the best of it. She says she’ll celebrate life, not worry about the possible danger that lurks. She tells me she’s glad I’m not there and CNN crews have left the area; she says it’s safer that way. But I say: Grandma, there’s no place I’d rather be.

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Filed under: 2011 tsunami • Japan