Coupled with the 35-hour week, an afternoon nap in French offices might seem to leave little time for work at all.

But a leading Gallic think-tank has said that they should encourage staff to take a post-lunch snooze of 15 to 20 minutes, insisting that it boosts productivity.

A fifth of the nation's workers nod off in front of their computer anyway, usually after the midday meal, a study for the think-tank, Terra Nova, found.

Napping is a physiological need that should be recognised as being in the best interests of employers, the experts who compiled the report argue.


Dr Jean-Pierre Giordanella, one of the authors of the report, called "Catching up on sleep, a public affair", told the Europe1 radio station that employers should provide napping rooms.

"All that's needed is a calm room where you can turn off the strip lighting and come out refreshed," he said. "We realised that this simple practice improves work efficiency and reduces absenteeism."

If sleep was not possible, the lack of noise and lighting would still do staff a power of good, he said.

For bosses concerned that it might shorten their employees' working day, the study suggested that staff "leave work 15 minutes later" to make up the lost time.

The study urged employers to train human resources managers on the benefits of a quick nap so they do not see it as a "laziness perk" or a "reward for idlers" but as a "way of better dividing up the day into phases of activity and rest".

It is not just staff who should visit the land of nod, the report added.

Bosses of small and medium-sized businesses sleep considerably less than average, at around six and a half hours per night. The resulting "sleep debt" makes them less creative, more irritable and has a "negative effect on their ability to anticipate", the study noted.

The French are notoriously bad sleepers, with 11 million regularly taking sleeping pills. "This is artificial sleep that is costing society dear and doesn't resolve the sleep issue," said Giordanella.

According to the report, good sleeping habits, including afternoon naps, should be instilled at a young age and the practice extended from elementary school to older students and adults.

"In many countries or big cities, the cost associated with sleep troubles can be counted in the billions of euros," the study notes.

Drowsiness is among the prime causes of accidents in the workplace and on the road, but lack of sleep to accommodate work demands also compounds social inequalities and sanitary risks, the study found.

"Everyone is explicitly or tacitly invited to turn sleep into a variable," it warned. "The politics of insomnia must end!"