It's Not Always Wrong to Nap In the Office — But You'll Want to Ask These 3 Questions First

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Heather K Adams734
Content + Copy Writer
April 16, 2024 at 8:52PM UTC
Getting caught "sleeping on the job" is bad . . . right? Maybe not. These days, a growing awareness of our sleep needs and the toxicity of high-stress lifestyles are creating a movement toward wellness infiltrating not just your Instagram feed but the workplace as well.
The average adult needs between six and nine hours of sleep a night, yet how many of us honestly make a point of clocking in all that necessary downtime? Hands? Exactly. A lot of us are walking around desperate for a little more shut-eye. Some dream-job companies are all for a quick snooze at work. Even if yours isn't, there are still a number of ways to have a go at sleeping at work.

When is it okay to sleep at work?

If you don't work in an environment amenable to napping, using your own breaks to sleep at work is probably your only recourse. Don't attempt to nap at your desk. Instead, take a coffee break or your lunch and use it to saw a few logs somewhere safe. 
Even if you're lucky enough to work for a company that embraces working naps, there is still a sleep etiquette. Avoid sleeping before lunch, for one thing. Clocking in and immediately zoning out will give the impression that you're lazy and uninvested. Aim for mid-afternoon, during the normal slump hours, but only if it doesn't interfere with any meetings, conference calls or other important agenda items.

When is it unacceptable to sleep at work?

Obviously, if your office doesn't allow sleeping at work, do your best not to crash anywhere in the building. This isn't to say you can't find somewhere nearby to get in a quick nap, especially if you have a vehicle or a friend who lives close at hand and happens to own a comfy couch. There are alternatives to sleeping at work itself.
Even if your office encourages napping, remember that there are a time and a place to take that nap. Any kind of crunch time, when everyone in the office is doubling down, or there are mandatory meetings and events, means sleeping at work is a no-no.

Can you get fired for sleeping on the job?

Totally. Some places might only issue a warning or reprimand, but for many companies, getting caught sleeping at work is grounds for immediate termination. Which, yeah, is pretty bad, but wait until you have to explain why you were fired when you start looking for a new job. Not a pleasant prospect. 
Be aware of your office environment, and follow the rules. Even in a company where naps are okay, there are definitely going to be some guidelines. When in doubt, ask.

How to sleep at work

1. Be clear on what is and isn't allowed.

If you're new, consult your handbook, other resource materials or someone in HR about the rules for sleeping at work. If it isn't allowed, you can try to win your boss over by touting the benefits of power naps, but if she doesn't go for it, then let the subject drop. You can work around not being able to nap in the actual office.

2. Use the designated nap areas.

If your company allows napping, then they've probably reserved areas specifically for that. They'll also probably have storage space for any personal sleep accessories you choose to bring, from your own pillow to maybe even a change of clothes. 
And why not bring in some sweatpants? After all, napping is about feeling refreshed, not feeling and looking all rumpled.

3. Establish sneaky nap areas.

If it's a "nap at your own risk" situation, be sure to find some pretty regularly quiet zones in which to do your snoozing. Search out empty conference rooms, offices or even an out of the way break room with a couch.
"Sneaky" is the key word here, though. Don't talk about it, and make sure to set an alarm so you can get in and out in the time it takes to have a normal break.

4. For car owners: a bed on wheels.

Your ride can also be a vehicle for successful napping. Turn it into a power nap zone worth bragging about to your friends: bring a candle, a cozy pillow, some mood music. Fill up your gas tank in the morning, so you can take that much-needed snooze with the AC on high. You can even plan ahead and find that perfect private, shaded parking spot.

5. For city dwellers: rent-a-beds.

If you've never heard of a nap room, Google it immediately. Spas, clubs and other facilities are all making these zones more available, especially in urban areas. Some cater specifically to parents, pairing nap rooms with babysitting options, while others are for professionals ducking in on their lunch breaks.


How can I sleep at work without anyone knowing?

Again, be careful with this. If sleeping at work isn't allowed, getting caught can spell serious trouble. That being said, if you're committed, keep a sharp eye for areas with minimal traffic during your ideal nap time, as well as a place to sit or lie comfortably. If you feel like chancing it, enlist a coworker to act as your spotter. Again, we're not encouraging this, but if you're going to sneak, sneak smart.

Can I get fired for sleeping on my lunch break?

This one's a little tricky. Legally, your lunch break is time for you do what you please inside that allotted time. But, back to etiquette. It's not cool to straight-up lie under your desk and start drooling. Even the most nap-positive company will take issue with that. Whether napping is or isn't allowed, discretion is still a crucial element of maintaining your professionalism.

Can I get unemployment if I'm fired for sleeping at work?

Probably not. In most cases, being fired for those 40 winks you took will fall under the heading of "misconduct," and this will make you exempt from collecting unemployment. You can, of course, appeal the decision, especially if you feel a second look at the circumstances around your snoozing is warranted. Don't be afraid to stand up for yourself if you feel you're being treated unfairly.

Final thought

Whether it's allowed or not, there's a right and a wrong way to go about sleeping while you're at work. Don't get caught sneaking. And if you work for a nap-forward company, avoid looking lazy, and follow the examples set by your coworkers. The art of the power nap is one worth study, but it isn't worth losing your job over. If you're going to snooze, do it right.

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Heather Adams is a writer photographer.

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