French embrace the power nap

Jan 31 2007 by Brian Amble Print This Article

The French already enjoy Europe's shortest working week. Now they being encouraged to have a nap after lunch.

The Times' Paris correspondent, Charles Bremner, says that the idea of taking a power nap is part of an official campaign to encourage the French to sleep better.

"Sleep must not be trivialised," Xavier Bertrand, the Health Minister, said. The after-lunch nap is to be introduced by volunteer companies and studied for results. It could then be recommended for all employees, the minister said.

"Why not a siesta at work? The question must not be taboo," Mr Bertrand said. "But let's not get carried away. The siesta would be limited to 15 minutes. But if the study enables us to confirm the positive effects on concentration and quality of work, we must not hesitate to promote the concept."

Before dismissing the idea out of hand, however, it's worth noting that a recent study estimated that fatigue costs U.S. employers more than $136 billion per year in lost productivity.

What's more, a University of Florida study found that lack of sleep not only makes people tired and bad-tempered but also causes them to dislike and even hate their jobs the next morning.

And UK research has found tired employees responsible for legal errors, road accidents, confidential material being sent out by email, workers losing their temper with colleagues, medical mishaps, important information being incorrectly deleted from files, and safety procedures being breached.

Meanwhile the National Institute of Industrial Health in Japan found that for workers who took a 15-minute nap during the post-lunch period, "perceived alertness was significantly higher in the afternoon after the nap than after no nap." Harvard researchers have also found that a midday nap reverses information overload.

Perhaps this could even be an opportunity for some good old U.S. entrepreneurism (ironic, really, given that it was 'Anglo-Saxon' working practices that did for the siesta in the first place). Already in New York an outfit called MetroNaps provides rows of automated 'shut-eye pods' into which tired bankers can dive for 20 minutes of rest. What an opportunity to get the same things out on the streets of Paris.

The Times | Too tired to work? Then have a snooze