A Primer For The Perfect Nap

Why Some Snoozing Sessions Leave You Groggy While Others Help

By Sumathi Reddy

Father and Baby Napping

 

There’s an art to napping.

Studies have found different benefits—and detriments—to a nap’s timing, duration and even effect on different people, depending on one’s age and possibly genetics.

“Naps are actually more complicated than we realize,” said David Dinges, a sleep scientist at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine.

 

“You have to be deliberative about when you’re going to nap, how long you’re going to nap and if you’re trying to use the nap relative to work or what you have coming up.”

A snooze on the couch on a Sunday afternoon may seem like the perfect way for a responsible adult to unplug. But at a time when roughly one-third of people report not getting enough sleep, more naps, albeit short ones, might make for a more functional workforce, researchers say.

How Long to Nap

Sleep experts break sleep down into several stages, which the brain cycles through roughly every 90 to 120 minutes.

These stages are broadly characterized into non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. NREM is further broken down into stage one and two, which are considered light and intermediate sleep, followed by slow-wave sleep.

Awakening from slow-wave sleep, the deepest kind, results in what doctors call sleep inertia or sleep drunkenness: that groggy feeling that can take awhile to shake off. Finally, there’s REM sleep, often associated with dreaming.

Sara Mednick, an assistant psychology professor at the University of California, Riverside, said the most useful nap depends on what the napper needs.

 

 

  • For a quick boost of alertness, experts say a 10-to-20-minute power nap is adequate for getting back to work in a pinch.
  • For cognitive memory processing, however, a 60-minute nap may do more good, Dr. Mednick said. Including slow-wave sleep helps with remembering facts, places and faces. The downside: some grogginess upon waking.
  • Finally, the 90-minute nap will likely involve a full cycle of sleep, which aids creativity and emotional and procedural memory, such as learning how to ride a bike. Waking up after REM sleep usually means a minimal amount of sleep inertia, Dr. Mednick said.

Experts say the ideal time to nap is generally between the hours of 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Napping later in the day could interfere with nighttime sleep. Siesta time for many cultures around the world bear out the benefits of a mid day nap.

The body’s circadian rhythms help people to expect to be awake in the morning and early in the night. “So if you take naps when your brain doesn’t expect to be sleeping, you feel kind of thrown off,” contributing to the sleep inertia effect, said Rafael Pelayo, a clinical professor at Stanford University School of Medicine’s Sleep Medicine Center.

A telltale sign of being very sleep-deprived, he said, is dreaming during a short nap. “Definitely in a 20-minute nap you should not be dreaming,” he said.

Ilene Rosen, an associate professor of clinical medicine at Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine, said the ideal duration of a nap is still being debated, but generally speaking the “10-to-20-minute nap is really the optimal time in terms of bang for your buck.”

Sleeping WomanLeon Lack, a psychology professor at Flinders University in Australia, found in a 2006 study in the journal Sleep that among shorter breaks, 10-minute naps packed the most punch.

The study compared naps ranging from 30 seconds to 30 minutes, testing 24 participants at each of several intervals. After each nap the individuals were tested on a variety of mental-processing tasks. The sharpness of the 10-minute nappers became apparent “right away,” Dr. Lack said, and remained apparent for about two to 2 1/2 hours.

Those who took 20- and 30-minute naps tended to feel groggy immediately after the nap for up to about 30 minutes. From there, they showed mental sharpness similar to what researchers saw from the 10-minute nappers, with that sharpness lasting a bit longer.

Jonathan Brandl is a Newton, Mass.-based consultant who works from home. Up at 5 a.m. to hit the gym, he finds himself fading around 2 p.m. His solution is a fast snooze in a comfy chair in his den. His trick for waking up: He holds a pen or pencil in his hand, which usually falls about 10 to 15 minutes into his nap, waking him up.

“After the nap, I feel totally refreshed and then power through the rest of the day,” the 56-year-old Mr. Brandl said.

Though napping at work often remains taboo, experts say growing scientific evidence of its benefits has led select workplaces to accept it.

Christopher Lindholst, chief executive and co-founder of New York-based MetroNaps, has installed specially designed sleeping pods for Google, Huffington Post, an Iowa construction company and the Arizona Diamondbacks baseball team. The chairs retail for $8,995 to $12,985. ( I’m guessing most of us won’t be sleeping in 13K specialty chairs, and most companies will most likely put up with drooling on the desk rather than pop for these high tech sleep aids).

The 60-minute nap may not be kosher in most workplaces, but it also has its pluses.

Man Sleeping at Work on KeyboardIn a 2012 study in the journal Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, researchers split 36 college-aged students into three groups. Each group learned a memory task, pairing words on a screen with a sound. Afterward, one group had 60 minutes to nap, another 10 minutes. The final group didn’t sleep.

Upon retesting, the napping groups fared better, as expected, said Sara Alger, lead author of the study and a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Notre Dame.

More interesting, she noted, was that on further testing, including a week later, the 60-minute group performed far better than the 10-minute group, which now performed as poorly as the non-napping group. The researchers concluded that slow-wave sleep—only experienced by the 60-minute nappers—is necessary for memory consolidation.

Researchers continue to explore why some individuals don’t seem to benefit from naps. Dr. Mednick said ongoing studies are looking at potential genetic differences between habitual and nonhabitual nappers.

 

Sweet DreamsKimberly Cote, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario, said individuals who don’t normally nap tend to slip into the deep stages of sleep more quickly than those who do. Studies have found through monitoring brain waves that regular nappers are good at maintaining a light sleep when they nap and show better performance improvements than their non-napping counterparts.

“We’re not sure what those individual differences are,” she said, “if that’s something that they’ve learned to do over time or if there’s something biologically different that allows them to nap like that.”

Another trick to waking up perky after a short nap is to drink a cup of coffee before sleeping. Caffeine won’t hurt such a short break and should lessen the effect of sleep inertia.

Dr. Dinges recommends sleeping partially upright to make it easier to wake up. Studies, he said, have found that not lying totally flat results in avoiding falling into a deeper sleep.

“A lot of people say, ‘I only need four hours of sleep a night.’ There’s a few of them around but not very many,” he said.

Write to Sumathi Reddy at sumathi.reddy@wsj.com

A version of this article appeared September 3, 2013, on page D1 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: A Field Guide to the Perfect Nap.

See Related:

A Good Night’s Sleep Increases Cardiovascular Benefits Of A Healthy Lifestyle

Go Ahead, Hit The Snooze Button

Sleep Disturbances Associated With Work Disability

5 Things You Probably Don’t Know About Sleep — But Should

Extra 30 Minutes Sleep Gives Teens A Boost

10 Reasons Why You’re Not Seeing Better Results At The Gym

Reprinted from SkinnyMom.com

When you eat and exercise is also key to maximizing your body’s ability to absorb nutrients and process the enormous number of chemical operations on the nutrients available at any instant in time.

Perhaps just as important as what you do is what you think, feel and experience in each moment.

Don’t forget the power you have over the meaning you’re making about what’s occurring. Opinions and judgements about your results have an impact on your experience.  Sorting for the wins each day is more powerful than looking for more evidence that you’re not getting the results you want.

These tips are a good place to start. See what areas you can improve on and start seeing the results you’ve been looking for! That’s what playing the “Is It Healthy?” Game looks like.

Exercise can be a great way to feel better, be healthier and reach fitness goals; but for some people who want to see physical results, it can seem like it may not be working. There’s a point in time where the phrase “it takes time” expires.

Here are a few tips from A Calorie Counter and Spark People on why your workout may not be yielding results and what you can do to see a change.

 

1. Are you eating too much?

Weight loss is a simple equation of eating fewer calories than you burn in a day. If you’re not ending the day with a calorie deficit, you won’t be losing weight. Instead you’ll be just maintaining or even gaining weight. Try keeping a thorough food journal with what and how much of everything you eat for a week. You’re probably eating more than you think!

 

2. Pounds vs. inches

How are you measuring your progress? If your workout routine includes weight training, you’re most likely adding muscle mass and subsequently changing your body composition. Since muscle weighs more than fat, relying on the scale alone may not be giving you an accurate reading of your progress. Taking measurements of your arms, thighs, mid-section and hips on a biweekly basis may paint a different picture of your success!

 

3. Change it up

“If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got.” This well-known adage is especially true of your fitness routine and diet. If you’ve hit a plateau, you may need to change up your routine and increase the intensity, as well as adjust your daily calorie intake. The less of you there is, the fewer calories you need.

 

4. You’re only doing cardio

Forty-five minutes on the elliptical may feel like a good workout, but without weight training, you’ll never change your body composition by adding more muscle. A greater muscle mass increases your daily calorie burn, leading to a lower body fat percentage and a leaner you. If you love cardio, try a kettle bell class or circuit training in place of typical weight training.

 

5. Falling for the flavor of the week

Making too many changes too quickly can be just as detrimental as getting stuck in a rut. Ballroom dancing may be the latest fitness craze, but it may not be the calorie burn or weight-training routine you need. Figure out what works for you rather than for everyone else, and stick with it.

 

6. Fact vs. fiction

Are you doing or trying? You may feel like you’re eating healthy and exercising regularly, but a well-kept food and exercise journal may tell a different story. Take a close hard look at your food choices and fitness routine and see what is really going on and where you can make improvements.

 

7. You’re rewarding yourself with food

It’s awesome that you just ran 3 miles, but rewarding yourself with a Starbucks Frappuccino will do nothing but negate all your hard work. Rather than food, try setting a long-term goal and reward yourself with a gift when you reach your goal.

 

8. You’re not working hard enough

Are you challenging yourself with your workouts? If you’ve found yourself getting through your fitness routine with less or minimal effort, it may be time to take it up a notch. Add weight training, high-intensity interval training or a faster pace on the treadmill to keep your workouts challenging and you seeing results.

 

9. You’re working too hard

As crazy as it sounds, working out too hard can be detrimental to meeting your fitness and weight or body measurement goals. Make sure to take at least one rest day a week, drink plenty of water and eat nutritious foods to replenish your muscles after a hard workout. Remember you want to build muscle, not break it down without recovery.

 

10. You’re not getting enough sleep

Few of us can say that we get the recommended eight hours of sleep a night. Although it may be hard to forgo productivity for sleep, your efforts for a good night’s sleep will pay off in the long run. Lack of sleep can lead to hormonally charged weight gain and poor workouts due to fatigue and lack of concentration. Set a sleep schedule complete with a bedtime and wake time, and stick with it.

These tips are a good place to start. See what areas you can improve on and start seeing the results you’ve been looking for! That’s what playing the “Is It Healthy?” Game looks like.

 

By providing the “skinny” on healthy living trends, Skinny Mom educates, supports & motivates moms to live their healthiest lives. Skinny Mom provides readers with the latest and greatest healthy living content, products and food and fitness planning through Skinny Mom’s Monthly Membership. Connect with Skinny Mom through FacebookTwitterPinterest and Instagram.

A Good Night’s Sleep Increases Cardiovascular Benefits Of A Healthy Lifestyle

Getting A Good Night's SleepA good night’s sleep can increase the benefit of exercise, healthy diet, moderate alcohol consumption and non-smoking in their protection against cardiovascular disease (CVD), according to results of a large population follow-up study.(1)

Results showed that the combination of the four traditional healthy lifestyle habits was associated with a 57% lower risk of cardiovascular disease (fatal and non-fatal) and a 67% lower risk of fatal events.(2)

But, when “sufficient sleep” (defined as seven or more hours a night) was added to the other four lifestyle factors, the overall protective benefit was even further increased – and resulted in a 65% lower risk of composite CVD and a 83% lower risk of fatal events. (more…)

Should Babies Cry Themselves Back to Sleep? Three Tips to Teach Babies to Self Sooth:


Stamford, CT
May 07, 2013 / (http://www.myprgenie.com) — According to a study done at Temple University, “it is more beneficial for mothers to let their babies cry themselves back to sleep.” According to Angela Walsh from New York, Certified Child Sleep Consultant by The Family Sleep Institute and Founder of Babes in Sleepland, there is a way however, where parents can help their babies learn the skill of self-soothing so they do not need to cry themselves to sleep.

Baby Crying Itself To SleepThe study which was published in Developmental Psychology, describes two kinds of babies. The sleepers and the  transitional sleepers. Babies, like adults, have sleep cycles that last about 1 1/2- 2 hours. The transitional sleepers cry when they go from one cycle to the next. Sleepers on the other hand, are able to fall back to sleep without crying, because they are able to self soothe.

Babies can learn the self-soothing skill and parents can help them in three ways:

 

  1. Don’t let your baby fall asleep while feeding. It is natural for a baby to do this, but you can gently wake your baby to at least the drowsy point, and then put your baby in bed so she does end up falling asleep on her own.
  2. Once your baby is over 4 months, it is good  to establish a regular bedtime.
  3. Try to resist the urge to jump out of your own bed at every peep from your baby. Let her try to soothe herself  back to sleep and then you can also go off to that wonderful place.

 

While most babies sleep through five or six night a week by the age of six months, according to the study by American psychologists, a third continue to wake much more frequently until they are toddlers.

They looked at sleep patterns in 1,200 children from birth to three years and found ‘wakers’ tended to be boys. They also tended to be breast fed.

The research was led Marsha Weinraub, professor of psychology at Temple University in Philadelphia. She concluded that babies should be left to go to sleep on their own – even if that meant they cried for a bit.

Doing so enabled them to learn how to “self soothe” and settle themselves to sleep on their own, which also gave frazzled parents a break, she argued.

She said: “These data support those parenting practices that foster children learning to go back to sleep on their own, without nursing, without being held, and eventually learn to self-comfort. This is really hard for some babies.

“And it’s even harder for parents.”

However, she continued: “If parents what their children to learn to sleep through the night, they need to allow their Sweet Dreamschildren to learn to return to sleep after awakening.

“This may require parents to not respond when their children awaken and call out or cry, especially after nine or 10 months of age.

“If the parent knows that the child is safe and just needs help falling asleep, it may be best to let the child learn to return to sleep on their own.”

She said: “The best advice is to put infants to bed at a regular time every night, allow them to fall asleep on their own and resist the urge to respond right away to awakenings.

“When mothers tune in to these night time awakenings or if a baby is in the habit of falling asleep during breastfeeding, then he or she may not be learning to how to self-soothe, something that is critical for regular sleep.”

Babies that awoke lots created “problems” for mothers “and other family members”, she said.

As a result parents of such children “might be encouraged to establish more nuanced and carefully targeted routines to help babies with self-soothing and to seek occasional respite”.

Writing in the journal Developmental Psychology, she and colleagues said they also found that mothers of babies who woke persistently were more likely to be depressed. The babies themselves were more likely to be irritable.

However, she admitted their research could not tease out cause and effect. Were their mothering techniques leading to poorer sleep and hence maternal depression? Or did pre-existing depression mean such mothers could not bear to leave their babies to cry?

Prof Weinraub’s advice tallies with that of baby gurus such as Gina Ford, author of The New Contented Little Baby Book.

Ford advocates a rigid approach towards bedtimes that includes letting the baby settle alone for a time – a technique called ‘controlled crying’ – and a ‘no eye contact’ rule while settling them.

However, Ford has frequently been attacked as unloving, with critics frequently pointing out that she is a maternity nurse who has never had a child of her own.

Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, bravely entered the fray three years ago, likening her methods to “a sort of Ikea assembly instruction manual” that advocated sticking a child “in a broom cupboard”.

For that he earned Ford’s rebuke that his comments were “sad …coming from a supposedly intelligent man”.

Proponents of ‘attachment parenting’ see letting babies cry themselves to sleep as a form of neglect that could lead to long-term psychological damage.

The same year Penelope Leach wrote in her book The Essential First Year: “It is potentially damaging to leave babies to cry.”

It generated high levels of the stress hormone cortisol, she said, which over time “neurobiologists say is toxic to the human brain”.

This May, a University of North Texas study was published bearing this out – although it was led by a member of the Attachment Parenting International Research Group.

Both sides of the debate – or rather argument – wield academic studies as weapons in a fight that is unlikely to end soon.

The National Health Service (NHS) advice errs towards controlled crying. The NHS Choices website proposes that parents “could try” to “teach your child to get back to sleep by themselves”, by leaving them for five to 10 minutes at a time.

“It might take a week or two but if you keep the routine going, your child should start falling asleep on their own,” it encourages.

It adds: “Tackle it together. If you have a partner, agree between you how to tackle your child’s sleeping problems.

“You don’t want to try to decide what to do in the middle of the night. If you’ve both agreed what’s best for your child, it’ll be easier to stick to your plan.”

For some couples, such agreement is likely to be a tall order.

Why Do Babies Calm Down When They Are Carried?

Parents know that crying babies usually calm down when they are picked up and carried, but why is that? In a study published today, researchers from the RIKEN Brain Science Institute show that human babies and mouse pups alike automatically and deeply relax when they are carried.

Mothers Carrying Their YoungTheir study, published in the journal Current Biology, is the first one to demonstrate that the infant calming response to maternal carrying is a coordinated set of nervous, motor and cardiac regulations. Kumi Kuroda and colleagues Gianluca Esposito and Sachine Yoshida, who carried out the research, propose that it might be an evolutionarily conserved, and essential, component of mother-infant interaction.

“This infant response reduces maternal burden of carrying and is beneficial for both the mother and the infant, “ explains Kuroda.

In a series of experiments involving ECG measurements the team observed that the heart rates of babies greatly slow down immediately after they are picked up and carried. But this is not the case if they are simply held. Using a very small ECG system on non-anesthetized mouse pups they were able to observe the same phenomenon in mice.

Both human and mouse babies calm down and stop moving immediately after they are carried, and mouse pups stop emitting ultrasonic cries.  Mouse pups also adopt the characteristic compact posture, with limbs flexed, seen in other mammals such as cats and lions.

The researchers determined that in mice this calming response is dependent on tactile inputs and proprioception, the ability to sense and understand body movement. They also report that it is mediated by the parasympathetic nervous system and a region of the brain called the cerebellum.

These findings have important implication for parenting and could contribute to preventing child abuse.
“Such proper understanding of infants would reduce frustration of parents and be beneficial, because unsoothable crying is major risk factor for child abuse,” says Kuroda.

“Although our study was done on mothers, we believe that this is not specific to moms and can be used by any primary caregiver,” add the authors.

http://www.riken.jp/en/pr/press/2013/20130419_2

Full bibliographic information Reference
“Infant Calming Responses during Maternal Carrying in Humans and Mice”Gianluca Esposito#, Sachine Yoshida#, Ryuko Ohnishi, Yousuke Tsuneoka, Maria del Carmen Rostagno, Susumu Yokota, Shota Okabe, Kazusaku Kamiya, Mikio Hoshino, Masaki Shimizu, Paola Venuti, Takefumi Kikusui, Tadafumi Kato and Kumi O. Kuroda (#: These authors contributed equally to this work.)
Current Biology, 2013, DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2013.03.041

Go Ahead, Hit The Snooze Button

By LAUREN WEBER

Turns out a good night’s rest is good for business.

One-third of American workers aren’t sleeping enough to function at peak levels, and that chronic exhaustion is costing billions of dollars in lost productivity, according to researchers from Harvard Medical School.

Sleep-deprived American workers ultimately cost their employers $63 billion in lost productivity, according to a 2011 Harvard Medical School study.  Lauren Weber joins The News Hub with a look at some companies making a business case for a better-rested workforce.

Managers at a growing number of companies, among them Procter & Gamble Co., PG +0.71% and Goldman Sachs Group Inc., GS -0.34% are waking up to the problem, investing in programs from sleep-hygiene courses to melatonin-regulating lighting to help employees improve their slumber.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 40.6 million American workers, or 30% of the civilian workforce, don’t get enough rest. And the Harvard scientists estimated in 2011 that sleep deprivation costs U.S. companies $63.2 billion in lost productivity per year, mainly because of “presenteeism,” people showing up for work but operating at subpar levels. One example, from a separate team at Singapore Management University: Workers waste an extra 8.4 minutes online—checking email, refreshing the TMZ.com home page, and so on—for every hour of interrupted sleep the previous night.

Sleep_Thumbnail_cover

Managers struggle to motivate exhausted workers. During busy holiday periods at the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek resort in Avon, Colo., long hours sometimes lead to short fuses among staff. “You have to try to figure out who’s feeling frustrated and help them cut loose to get some rest,” said Scott Gubrud, director of sales and marketing at the hotel, which last week began a series of better-sleep initiatives for both employees and guests.

“If we treated machinery like we treat the human body, there would be breakdowns all the time,” said James Maas, a former Cornell University psychologist and author of “Sleep for Success.”

Companies have been slow to grasp the effects of sleep deprivation on productivity, but it is now a hot topic even in hard-driving industries, such as finance, where pulling all-nighters is often viewed as crucial to getting ahead.

Sleep Working

  • 43% of Americans between 13 and 64 say they rarely or never get a good night’s sleep on weeknights
  • 60% of Americans say they experience a sleep problem every night or almost every night, such as waking in the night, waking up too early, or feeling un-refreshed when they get up in the morning
  • 61% of Americans say they use a computer at least a few nights a week within an hour of going to bed
  • Americans drink, on average, three 12-ounce caffeinated beverages on a weekday
  • 74% of workers over 30 who report not getting adequate sleep say that sleepiness affects their work
  • 9% of Americans say they are likely to fall asleep at an inappropriate moment, such as during a meeting or while driving
  • 71% of Americans say they have a television in their bedrooms
  • 11% of those with televisions in the bedroom say they keep the TV on all night
  • 39% of Americans say they have a computer in their bedrooms
  • 40.6 million American workers – 30% of the civilian workforce – sleep less than 6 hours per night (“short sleep duration”)
  • The problem is particularly acute for night-shift workers: 44% of them sleep less than 6 hours per night, compared with 28.8% of people who work typical daytime hours
  • Workers between the ages of 30 and 64 were more likely to report short sleep duration; workers over 65 were least likely to report short sleep duration
  • Workers with college degrees or more education were least likely to report short sleep duration
  • Segmenting the data industry by industry, workers reported anywhere from 24.1% (other services, except public administration) to 41.6% (mining) incidence of short sleep duration. Some industries relevant to our readership: finance and insurance industry (27.4%); professional, scientific,and technical services (28.2%); and information (28.3%)
  • 23.2% of American workers suffer from insomnia
  • People with insomnia did not report higher levels of absenteeism compared to non-sufferers, but reported significantly higher levels of presenteeism (lower productivity while at work)
  • Workers with insomnia lost an average of 7.8 days of work performance per year due to presenteeism related directly to sleep problems
  • Generalizing to the total U.S. workforce, insomnia costs American companies $63.2 billion

Sources: National Sleep Foundation, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and “Insomnia and the Performance of U.S. Workers,” Sleep, 2011

Mr. Maas, who says he coined the phrase “power nap” 36 years ago, gave a talk about sleep hygiene at Goldman Sachs in 2011 that was so oversubscribed it had to be broadcast via conference call to accommodate the 1,000 or so people who wanted to attend. He spoke last year at hedge-fund firm D.E. Shaw & Co., which has nap pods sprinkled around its offices.

Yet perceptions linger that sleep is for sissies and loafers, and neither Goldman nor Shaw would comment directly about why they’re addressing employees’ sleep habits. A 2012 University of Southern California study of young investment bankers suggests that punishing hours, and resulting sleep deprivation, contributed to physical and emotional ailments within four years on the job.

“People in investment banking have been my main clients for the last few years because they’re so exhausted and under so much pressure,” said Mr. Maas, adding that bankers usually don’t want to hear about how to get more sleep. Instead, they want tips for performing well on five or six hours’ rest.

The risks of fatigue are especially acute in professions like health care and manufacturing, which involve overnight shifts and where a single careless error can put lives in danger.

 

At Aurora Health Care, the largest hospital system in Wisconsin, more than 2,600 employees in 2012 took a six-week online course for insomnia sufferers after managers surmised that sleep deprivation was likely a problem among its workforce. The course, one of several health-coaching sessions offered at Aurora and developed by Johnson & Johnson‘s JNJ +0.22% Wellness & Prevention unit, requires participants to keep a sleep diary, and then makes recommendations based on individual sleep patterns.

Barb Stollenwork, age 53 and a wellness program coordinator at Aurora, kicked her nightly Tylenol PM habit after finishing the program at the end of 2011. For years, she said, she woke at 4 a.m., then lay in bed worrying about how she’d function that day. By changing her behavior—for instance, going to bed later—she began sleeping until her alarm rang at 5:30 a.m.

A Google employee takes a break in a nap pod, which blocks out light and sound, at the Internet giant’s headquarters in 2008.

Based on follow-up surveys that asked about both sleep and work habits, Aurora sees an average of $672 in productivity savings per participant in the insomnia module, said Dr. David Smith, an Aurora vice president.

Procter & Gamble is talking with sleep expert Nancy Rothstein about creating a multiweek pilot program for two of its plants, one in Belleville, Ontario, that makes Always feminine-hygiene products, and the other in Lima, Ohio, that makes liquid laundry detergents. Paul DeLuca, North American learning and development manager, said he hopes to have both courses running by June, starting with a group of 15 to 20 workers in Lima and up to 300 in Belleville.

The plants operate day and night, so many employees work unconventional hours, a known risk for poor sleep and overall bad health. If the program helps workers get better rest, with resulting gains in productivity and concentration, Mr. DeLuca will argue for a broader rollout of the initiative.

P&G brought Ms. Rothstein to its headquarters in Cincinnati last year to give a 50-minute presentation emphasizing, among other things, the importance of shutting off screen devices an hour before bed because the blue light emitted by the screens interferes with production of the sleep hormone melatonin.

That’s no easy order in the age of smartphones, laptops and late-night conference calls with the Beijing or London office. “The line between work and what’s outside of work is graying,” Mr. DeLuca said.

At the more extreme end of the intervention scale, some are calling upon Litebook Company Ltd., a Canadian maker of lights that help regulate the body’s melatonin levels. The company, which supplies devices to the Philadelphia Flyers and Ottawa Senators to help athletes cope with jet lag and game schedules, said it is getting calls from corporations interested in making the lights available at workstations and desks.

Write to Lauren Weber at Lauren.Weber@wsj.com

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