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A security officer sleeping on duty

Sleeping while on duty or sleeping on the jobfalling asleep while one is not supposed to – is considered gross misconduct and grounds for disciplinary action, including termination of employment, in some occupations.[1][2] Recently however, there has been a movement in support of sleeping, or napping at work, with scientific studies highlighting health and productivity benefits, and over 6% of employers in some countries providing facilities to do so.[3][4][5] In some types of work, such as firefighting or live-in caregiving, sleeping at least part of the shift may be an expected part of paid work time. While some employees who sleep while on duty in violation do so intentionally and hope not to get caught, others intend in good faith to stay awake, and accidentally doze.

Sleeping while on duty is such an important issue that it is addressed in the employee handbook in some workplaces.[6] Concerns that employers have may include the lack of productivity, the unprofessional appearance, and danger that may occur when the employee's duties involve watching to prevent a hazardous situation.[7] In some occupations, such as pilots, truck and bus drivers, or those operating heavy machinery, falling asleep while on duty puts lives in danger. However, in many countries, these workers are supposed to take a break and rest every few hours.


The frequency of sleeping while on duty that occurs varies depending on the time of day. Daytime employees are more likely to take short naps, while graveyard shift workers have a higher likelihood of sleeping for a large portion of their shift, sometimes intentionally.

A survey by the National Sleep Foundation has found that 30% of participants have admitted to sleeping while on duty.[8][9] More than 90% of Americans have experienced a problem at work because of a poor night's sleep. One in four admit to shirking duties on the job for the same reason, either calling in sick or napping during work hours.[10]


Employers have varying views of sleeping while on duty. Some companies have instituted policies to allow employees to take napping breaks during the workday in order to improve productivity[11] while others are strict when dealing with employees who sleep while on duty and use high-tech means, such as video surveillance, to catch their employees who may be sleeping on the job. Those who are caught in violation may face disciplinary action such as suspension or firing.

Some employees sleep, nap, or take a power-nap only during their allotted break time at work. This may or may not be permitted, depending on the employer's policies. Some employers may prohibit sleeping, even during unpaid break time, for various reasons, such as the unprofessional appearance of a sleeping employee, the need for an employee to be available during an emergency, or legal regulations. Employees who may endanger others by sleeping on the job may face more serious consequences, such as legal sanctions. For example, airline pilots risk loss of their licenses.[12]

In some industries and work cultures sleeping at work is permitted and even encouraged. Such work cultures typically have flexible schedules, and variant work loads with extremely demanding periods where employees feel unable to spend time commuting. In such environments it is common for employers to provide makeshift sleeping materials for employees, such as a couch and/or inflatable mattress and blankets. This practice is particularly common in start-ups[13] and during political campaigns[citation needed]. In those work cultures sleeping in the office is seen as evidence of dedication.

In 1968, New York police officers admitted that sleeping while on duty was customary.[14]

In Japan, the practice of napping in public, called inemuri (居眠り, lit. "present while sleeping"), may occur in work meetings or classes. Brigitte Steger, a scholar who focuses on Japanese culture, writes that sleeping at work is considered a sign of dedication to the job, such that one has stayed up late doing work or worked to the point of complete exhaustion, and may therefore be excusable.[15][16]

Notable incidents

Airline pilots

Air traffic controllers

Bus drivers

Police officers/security officers


See also


  1. ^ Where do all the paperclips go- and ... - Google Books
  2. ^ Streetwise restaurant management: a ... - Google Books
  3. ^ Henry, Zoe (September 4, 2015). "6 Companies (Including Uber) Where It's OK to Nap". Inc. Retrieved May 12, 2017.
  4. ^ Herrera, Tim (June 23, 2017). "Take Naps at Work. Apologize to No One". The New York Times. Retrieved May 12, 2018.
  5. ^ Zimmerman, Kaytie (February 1, 2018). "It's Time To Start Taking Naps At Work". Forbes. Retrieved May 12, 2018.
  6. ^ Effectively managing troublesome ... - Google Books
  7. ^ Create your own employee handbook: a ... - Google Books
  8. ^ On Hiring: Sleeping on the Job -
  9. ^ "Survey: One-third of workers catching zzz's on job -". Archived from the original on 2008-03-05.
  10. ^ "Tempur-Pedic 2009 Wellness Survey". Archived from the original on 2011-05-26. Retrieved 2009-05-20.
  11. ^ "Sleeping on the Job". Psychology Today. Retrieved 20 February 2019.
  12. ^ Hales, Lydia (2016-10-24). "Why employers need to help workers get good sleep". ABC News. Retrieved 2018-08-13.
  13. ^ Yoskovitz, Ben (November 30, 2011). "Sleeping Under Your Desk". Instigator Blog. Retrieved 28 March 2014.
  14. ^ Burnham, David (December 16, 1968). "Sleeping on Duty is Customary, New York Policemen admit". The Milwaukee Journal. New York Times News Service. p. 1. Retrieved 17 April 2011.
  15. ^ Steger, Brigitte (6 May 2016). "The Japanese art of (not) sleeping". BBC.
  16. ^ Benedictus, Leo (7 July 2015). "The art of the urban nap: let's lose the stigma of public snoozing". The Guardian.
  17. ^ FAA wants to know if go! pilots fell asleep
  18. ^ "Italian air traffic controllers suspended for sleeping on duty: Luton Airport News Stories". Archived from the original on 2007-10-28. Retrieved 2008-03-07.
  19. ^ "NTSB: Air traffic controller fell asleep, leaving planes on their own". Archived from the original on 2011-03-26. Retrieved 2011-03-30.
  20. ^ "Air traffic chief resigns after series of lapses". CBS NEWS. USA. 14 April 2011. Retrieved 15 April 2011.
  21. ^ "14 dead in NYC tour bus accident". CT Post. New York. March 12, 2011. Retrieved 15 April 2011.
  22. ^ "Lawyer: NYC bus driver sober, awake before crash". CT Post. New York. March 24, 2011. Retrieved 15 April 2011.
  23. ^ "Policeman Fined $75 for Sleeping While on Duty". 1947-12-14. Archived from the original on 2012-07-24. Retrieved 2017-07-07.
  24. ^ The Raw Story | Video shows nuclear plant guards sleeping on the job
  25. ^ "Photo Catches N.Y. Prison Guard Sleeping on Job in Front of Inmate". Fox News. New York: AP. December 29, 2009. Retrieved 17 April 2011.
  26. ^ "SLEEPING ON THE JOB LEADS TO SHUTDOWN OF REACTOR". New York Times. Washington. April 1, 1987. Archived from the original on July 17, 2012. Retrieved 17 April 2011.