1 in 3 employees—including in-office workers—regularly nap on the clock, survey says. Here’s who catches the most Z’s on the job and why

If you work an office job, perhaps it’s happened to you. You didn’t get enough sleep last night. You’ve powered through the morning, yet your to-do list stretches on. You’re moving a bit slower, sated from lunch. Your computer screen becomes hazy. You glance out the window to see the sun starting its afternoon descent, and your eyelids droop with it. You decide to let yourself snooze just for a few minutes…

Occasionally falling asleep at work is par for the course, according to a new survey by sleep wellness company Sleep Doctor, with 46% of respondents saying they nap during the workday at least a few times a year. What’s more, 33% reported doing so weekly—9% once per week, 18% several times per week, and 6% daily.

Particularly if you didn’t get enough shut-eye the night before, taking a 20- to 25-minute nap may help you recharge and take on the remainder of your workday, says Sleep Doctor founder and clinical psychologist Michael Breus, Ph.D. But don’t make a habit of it.

“While you might feel slightly sleepy between one and three in the afternoon—because everybody does, it’s due to a post-lunch dip in core body temperature—you should not require a nap,” Breus tells Fortune. “If you’re getting the sleep that you should be getting at night, you should not require a nap.”

Midday snoozing is a big no-no for people with insomnia, Breus adds: “If you have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep at night, napping, all that does is make it worse.”

Nearly 1,300 full-time U.S. employees completed the survey in March via Pollfish. Sleep Doctor didn’t provide additional details about the respondents, such as their shift schedules, workplace environments, or socioeconomic statuses. Though the survey isn’t a scientific study, it offers insight into the post-pandemic habits of the nation’s workforce, Breus says.

Half of in-person employees nap in their cars

It’s not just remote and hybrid employees who are catching Z’s during work hours. About 27% of in-person workers reported napping at the office on a weekly basis, compared to 34% of remote and 45% of hybrid workers. In-person employees napped in these locations:

  • Car: 50%
  • Desk: 33%
  • Company-designated napping place: 20%
  • Return home: 14%
  • Bathroom: 9%

Napping in the workplace is a luxury, says Dr. Rafael Pelayo, a clinical professor in the Division of Sleep Medicine at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

“There are a lot of health care disparity issues related to sleep,” Pelayo tells Fortune. “You can only nap at your job if you have a place to nap and it’s accepted by your employer. So a lot of people don’t have a place to nap where they work.”

Pelayo adds, “If you work in an assembly line and you take a train to work, you don’t have a chance to nap anywhere. Or, if you’re in a place where you don’t feel safe; somebody who is napping is vulnerable to being robbed or attacked.”

Men, younger staffers more likely to nap during workday

More than half of male employees, 52%, told Sleep Doctor they nap at least a few times a year during work hours, compared to 38% of females. It’s unclear whether the survey collected data on non-cisgender workers.

A majority of younger adult employees admitted to workday napping, a higher percentage than more seasoned staffers:

  • 18–34: 54%
  • 35–54: 46%
  • 55+: 25%

Younger adults tend to be more sleep-deprived because they have less control over their lives, Pelayo tells Fortune. They may have children interrupting their sleep, elderly parents to care for, longer commutes, and more demands on their free time.

“When people get older and they have medical problems, medical problems interrupt our ability to sleep, like arthritis, chronic pain. But healthy elderly people sleep really, really well,” Pelayo says. “They get better sleep than healthy young people. Healthy older people, the reason they ended up being healthy old people is they had good lifestyles.”

Middle age Asian businessman feeling sleepy during working on laptop and meeting at café officeMiddle age Asian businessman feeling sleepy during working on laptop and meeting at café office
More than half of male employees, 52%, told Sleep Doctor they nap at least a few times a year during work hours, compared to 38% of females. It is unclear whether the March 2024 survey collected data on non-cisgender workers.

Nattakorn Maneerat—Getty Images

Remote workers take longest workday naps

“Smart naps” lasting 20–30 minutes may temporarily make you feel more alert and awake, says Alaina Tiani, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic Sleep Disorders Center.

“This increases the likelihood that your brain will stay in the lighter stages of sleep and that you will wake up refreshed,” Tiani tells Fortune via email. “When we nap much longer, we may cycle into deeper stages of sleep, which may be harder to wake from. We also recommend taking the nap as far in advance of your desired bedtime as possible to lessen the impact on your nighttime sleep quality.”

More than half of workday dozers keep their naps under 30 minutes, according to Sleep Doctor: 

  • Fewer than 15 minutes: 26%
  • 15–29 minutes: 27%
  • 30–59 minutes: 24%
  • 1 hour: 12%
  • 2 hours: 9%
  • 3+ hours: 3%

On average, 34% of remote and 31% of hybrid workers nap for longer than an hour, compared to 15% of in-person workers.

That napping is less common in the Western world than other cultures made the survey data stand out to Michael Grandner, Ph.D., director of the Sleep and Health Research Program at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tuscson. 

“The fact that many people who are working from home are more likely to take advantage of opportunities to nap was very surprising,” Grandner tells Fortune via email. “It suggests that many workers would prefer to integrate napping into their lifestyle if they could.”

Why are employees napping at work?

Staffers primarily cited some form of exhaustion as a reason for snoozing on the job, while others were simply bored:

  • Re-energize: 62%
  • Recover from poor sleep at night: 44%
  • Handle long working hours: 32%
  • Stress: 32%
  • Boredom: 11%
  • Avoid work: 6%

But why are they so sleep-deprived to begin with? Ironically, the flipside of napping at work is 77% of survey respondents said job stressors cause them to lose sleep nightly. About 57% reported losing at least an hour of sleep on an average night. Most cited work-life balance as their top job stressor: 

  • Work-life balance: 56%
  • Demanding projects: 39%
  • Long hours: 39%
  • Upcoming deadlines: 37%
  • Struggling to get to work on time: 30%
  • Issues with boss: 22%
  • Interpersonal conflict in workplace: 20%
  • Fears of being fired or laid off: 19%

Employees who lose sleep over job stress only to crave rest during the workday aren’t the norm, but their predicament isn’t rare either, Breus tells Fortune: “They kind of get their days and their nights mixed up.”

Hybrid workers were most likely to report job stressors impacting their sleep, 88%, compared to 73% of in-person and 71% of remote workers. In addition, more higher-level employees, such as CEOs and senior managers, reported losing sleep over career stress, 84%, than lower-level employees, 71%.

Napping on the job may have health, performance consequences

Dozing at your desk may seem inconsequential on a slower workday or when you think your boss won’t notice. But some employees have paid the price, Sleep Doctor data show.

Among nappers, 17% miss deadlines and 16% miss meetings at least once a month because they’re asleep on the job. About 27% of workers admit to falling asleep during a remote meeting in the past year, and 17% have done the same in person.

While just 20% of workers faced consequences, some were serious:

  • Check in with supervisor more often: 62%
  • Workload changed: 56%
  • Sit down with manager: 49%
  • Suspended: 24%
  • Fired: 17%

“Limiting sleep to one major nighttime window can help to ensure that you obtain an appropriate amount of sleep at night and thus do not require a daytime nap, which could interfere with work or other responsibilities,” Tiani says.

Strategic daytime napping can be an effective tool to boost energy and productivity, Grandner says, but falling asleep at work when you don’t mean to may indicate an underlying health issue. 

“For people who are unable to maintain consciousness, I would recommend evaluating your nighttime sleep to see if you have any untreated sleep disorders like sleep apnea, or if there are other steps you can take to achieve healthier sleep,” Gardner says.

You should also consult your doctor if you’re typically not a napper but begin having unexplained fatigue, Pelayo says: “An abrupt change in your need for sleep would indicate a medical problem being present.”

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