Health and Beauty

You should be taking more naps at your desk

Via Flickr user @cipherswarm.
Via Flickr user @cipherswarm.

We have lots of work to do in this country about reframing previously accepted social norms (and, no, that doesn’t mean making it ok to shout “WHAT IF NAZIS WERE ACTUALLY GOOD” in a crowded subway). Add to that list naps, the most perennially underutilized and oft-overlooked form of sleep. They’re tiny little miracles that are both good for your health and contain the magic of a fairy tale slumber that can jolt even the weariest lunch-bloated office drone back to life. We’ve come out in favor of naps before, and it seems Obama is leaving office without hearing our demand for more naps. So for guidance we must turn to foreign lands, specifically Japan, which has made great strides in nap normalization. As the New York Times reports:

“In most countries, sleeping on the job isn’t just frowned upon, it may get you fired. But in Japan, napping in the office is common and culturally accepted. And in fact, it is often seen as a subtle sign of diligence: You must be working yourself to exhaustion.”

We must also get to a place where our bosses will look on approvingly as we knock back a couple quick Zs at our desks.

The story, which ran in the Times print edition over the weekend (but has been online for a few weeks, it seems — because, print media) touts the Japanese idea of “inemuri,” the ability to “sleep while present,” when falling asleep at your desk or in a meeting

It is often translated as “sleeping on duty,” but Brigitte Steger, a senior lecturer in Japanese studies at Downing College, Cambridge, who has written a book on the topic, says it would be more accurate to render it as “sleeping while present.”

Inemuri has been practiced in Japan for at least 1,000 years, and it is not restricted to the workplace. People may nap in department stores, cafes, restaurants or even a snug spot on a busy city sidewalk.

Sleeping everywhere, from trains to dinner parties, is considered normal in Japan, according to the Times, and even respectful when compared to the rudeness of excusing yourself to take a nap. In America, we’re not even at the part where excusing yourself for a mid-party nap is acceptable. Wake up, sheeple! Or wait, no: sleep, sheeple, that’s the whole point. Enjoy a nice comforting sleep.

Yes, it’s clear that falling asleep at your desk is probably a sign of an over-worked society, though it also can be a sign of snarfing a whole Chipotle burrito in two minutes lest you freeze to death inside the cold metallic carbonite chamber every Chipotle store is apparently made out of. But the nap is magical: it’s different for every person, but I can pass out for just 5-10 minutes in the middle of the day or before going out at night and bounce back a whole new person. It’s just a quick reboot, like when your computer is running too slow, and it works every time.

Napping at your desk does sound kind of unpleasant, so let us millennials outdo the Japanese as we take over the workforces and bring more nap rooms, or at least like a couch to lie down for a few minutes, to offices across the country. We’ve all given up on the dream of retirement, so let’s just make a nice place to retire to (sorry) for a few minutes.

But as a society, instead of embracing the simple power nap (known on the weekends as the disco nap), we pump tons of money into the sleep-staving-off economy: endless coffee breaks, Five Hour Energy, SIX Hour Energy, cocaine, Red Bull and other toxic-colored energy drinks. All you need is a little bit of sleeping while present to get right back in the game.

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