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'Nap businesses' look to boost employee efficiency with workday snoozes

In this photo provided by Nishikawa Living Inc., employees use special pillows developed for desktop napping.

OSAKA -- "Nap businesses" promoting good quality sleep are practicing what they preach, setting times to snooze at the office to demonstrate how getting some Zs during the workday can improve employees' on-the-job efficiency.

Some of the United States' most famous firms including Google LLC and Nike Inc. recommend napping to their workers, and a similar shift is on in Japan, primarily among IT companies.

The "Sleep Guidelines for Health Promotion 2014," released by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare at the end of March that year, introduces the merits of taking an up to 30-minute snooze in the late afternoon "to improve work efficiency." Meanwhile, negative biases against napping at work have been changing gradually since Cornell University social psychologist James Mass coined the term "power nap."

Osaka-based traditional bedding manufacturer Nishikawa Living Inc. started selling pillows in August called "Konemuri" designed specifically for desktop snoozing, the least expensive version of which is priced at 2,800 yen before tax. The pillow allows people to sleep comfortably by tucking their arms inside a hole in the center or by rolling it up to adjust the height.

Beginning in July, Nishikawa Living implemented a 15-minute naptime after lunch breaks, using the special pillows. Over 90 percent of workers told a company survey that "naptime relieves stress during the afternoon." A spokesperson for the company in western Japan enthusiastically stated, "There is still the idea that having a nap is slacking off. Our company as a whole will strive to spread a naptime 'culture.'"

Known for their canned coffee, Osaka-based DyDo Drinco Inc. is promoting what it calls "caffeine naps," or drinking one of its coffees just before some afternoon shuteye in order to wake up feeling extra-refreshed. The company noted that the stimulating effect of caffeine kicks in some 20 to 30 minutes after drinking a coffee, or about the same length as a power snooze. Since last winter, DyDo has also been recommending to its employees that they take around 15 minutes of their lunch break for naptime.

Raycop Japan Inc., a Tokyo-based firm making futon vacuum cleaners, is providing air conditioners specifically made to adjust the temperature of futons free to companies that have set up a nap room in their offices. The "Raycop Futocon" normally sells for 128,000 yen excluding tax. It is being used in over 20 companies including McDonald's Co. Japan, and Raycop sees the spread of office naps as a chance to introduce people to their products.

(Japanese original by Natsuki Oka, Osaka Business News Department)

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