An Odd Holiday: National Public Sleeping Day

February 26, 2013

pillows for national sleeping dayGrab your pillows: National Public Sleeping Day is just around the corner, on February 28th. How to celebrate: take a nap in public. That’s it. The dubious, obscure holiday dates all the way back to 2011, and ever since bloggers and news organizations have used it to discuss sleep health issues, or use it as an excuse to run a cheeky photo of their boss napping while on the clock.

Even if it was created by a bored college student or an overworked office drone (its origins are murky), maybe Public Sleeping Day should become a nationally recognized holiday. Given our hectic lifestyles, more and more Americans are having a hard time getting a good night’s rest. Now, some people can get by on only a few hours a sleep a night. (If you have a newborn baby, you know this all too well.) According to one estimate, babies can cause their parents to lose between 400 and 750 hours of sleep during their first year alone. In his 2010 autobiography, Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards boasted that he once managed to go nine days without sleep.

A guy named Randy Gardner holds the scientifically documented record for the longest stint of sleeplessness. He managed to stay awake for 264 hours (around 11 days) in 1964. Meanwhile, Guinness World Records claims that the real record stands at 449 hours (which works out to 18 days, 17 hours). It was set in 1977 in England by a woman named Maureen Weston, who supposedly managed to stay awake that long during a “rocking chair marathon.”

But for those of us without these superhuman powers, sleep deprivation can cause some very real problems. A 2012 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that as many as 40 million workers in the U.S. get fewer than six hours of sleep a night, significantly less than the seven to nine recommended by the National Sleep Foundation. That’s a big concern, especially considering that an estimated 20% of vehicular crashes in the U.S. are caused by drowsiness. Not getting enough sleep can also cause health issues like depression and lead to occupational injuries.

So when your boss finds you napping at your desk on the 28th, be sure to tell him you’re celebrating a national holiday for the good health of both yourself and America.