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Sleeping while on duty

sleeping while on duty, sleeping while on duty memo
Sleeping while on duty or sleeping on the job refers to falling asleep while on the time clock or equivalent, or else while responsible for performing some active or passive job duty While in some jobs, this is a minor transgression or not even worthy of sanctioning, in other workplaces, this is considered gross misconduct and may be grounds for disciplinary action, including possible termination of employment12 In other types of work, such as firefighting or live-in caregiving, sleeping at least part of the shift may be a part of the 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 workplaces3 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 situation4 In some occupations, such as pilots, truck and bus drivers, or those operating heavy machinery, falling asleep while on duty could put lives in danger


  • 1 Frequency
  • 3 Notable incidents
    • 31 Airline pilots
    • 32 Air traffic controllers
    • 33 Bus drivers
    • 34 Police officers/security officers
    • 35 Other
  • 4 See also
  • 5 References


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 duty56 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 hours7


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 productivity8 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

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-ups9 and during political campaigns 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 customary10

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 excusable1112

Notable incidentsedit

Airline pilotsedit

  • February 2008 – the pilots on a go! airline flight were suspended during an investigation when it was suspected they fell asleep mid-flight from Honolulu, Hawaii to Hilo, Hawaii, resulting in their overshooting Hilo Airport by 15 miles before turning around to land safely13

Air traffic controllersedit

  • October 2007 – four Italian air traffic controllers were suspended after they were caught asleep while on duty14
  • March 2011 – the lone night shift air traffic controller at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport fell asleep on duty During the period he was asleep two airliners landed uneventfully15 In the weeks that followed, there were other similar incidents and it was revealed that other lone air traffic controllers on duty fell asleep in the towers This led to the resignation of United States air traffic chief Hank Krakowski and a new policy being set requiring two controllers to be on duty at all times16

Bus driversedit

  • March 2011 – a tour bus driver crashed while returning from a casino in Connecticut to New York City Fifteen people were killed and many others injured17 Though the driver, who was found to be sober, denied sleeping, a survivor who witnessed the crash reported that he was speeding and sleeping18

Police officers/security officersedit

  • December 1947 – a Washington, DC police officer was fined $75 for sleeping while on duty19
  • October 2007 – a CBS news story revealed nearly a dozen security guards at a nuclear power plant who were videotaped sleeping while on duty20
  • December 2009 – The New York Post published a photo of a prison guard sleeping next to an inmate at the Rikers Island penitentiary The photo was allegedly captured on the cell phone camera of another guard Both guard were disciplined for this action, the sleeping officer for sleeping and the officer who took the photo for violating a prison policy forbidding cell phones while on duty The inmate was not identified21


  • March 1987 – The Peach Bottom Nuclear Generating Station was ordered shut down by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission after four operators were found sleeping while on duty22

See alsoedit

  • Nap
  • Power nap


  1. ^ Where do all the paperclips go- and - Google Books
  2. ^ Streetwise restaurant management: a - Google Books
  3. ^ Effectively managing troublesome - Google Books
  4. ^ Create your own employee handbook: a - Google Books
  5. ^ On Hiring: Sleeping on the Job - Chroniclecom
  6. ^ "Survey: One-third of workers catching zzz's on job - CNNcom" Archived from the original on 2008-03-05 
  7. ^ Tempur-Pedic 2009 Wellness Survey
  8. ^ Psychology Today: Sleeping on the Job
  9. ^ Yoskovitz, Ben November 30, 2011 "Sleeping Under Your Desk" Instigator Blog Retrieved 28 March 2014 
  10. ^ Burnham, David December 16, 1968 "Sleeping on Duty is Customary, New York Policemen admit" The Milwaukee Journal New York: New York Times p 1 Retrieved 17 April 2011 
  11. ^ Steger, Brigitte 6 May 2016 "The Japanese art of not sleeping" BBC 
  12. ^ Benedictus, Leo 7 July 2015 "The art of the urban nap: let's lose the stigma of public snoozing" The Guardian 
  13. ^ FAA wants to know if go! pilots fell asleep
  14. ^ Italian air traffic controllers suspended for sleeping on duty: Luton Airport News Stories
  15. ^ NTSB: Air traffic controller fell asleep, leaving planes on their own
  16. ^ "Air traffic chief resigns after series of lapses" CBS NEWS USA April 14, 2011 Retrieved 15 April 2011  Check date values in: |date= help
  17. ^ "14 dead in NYC tour bus accident" CT Post New York March 12, 2011 Retrieved 15 April 2011 
  18. ^ "Lawyer: NYC bus driver sober, awake before crash" CT Post New York March 24, 2011 Retrieved 15 April 2011 
  19. ^ "Policeman Fined $75 for Sleeping While on Duty" 1947-12-14 
  20. ^ The Raw Story | Video shows nuclear plant guards sleeping on the job
  21. ^ "Photo Catches NY Prison Guard Sleeping on Job in Front of Inmate" Fox News New York: AP December 29, 2009 Retrieved 17 April 2011 
  22. ^ "SLEEPING ON THE JOB LEADS TO SHUTDOWN OF REACTOR" New York Times Washington: AP April 1, 1987 Retrieved 17 April 2011 

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