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Sleeping while on duty or "sleeping on the job" refers to falling asleep while on the timeclock or equivalent, or else while responsible to be performing some active or passive job duty. In some workplaces, this is considered gross misconduct and may be grounds for disciplinary action, including possible termination of employment[1][2]. 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 most workplaces[3]. 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[4].



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.[5][6] More than 90 percent 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. [7]


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[8] 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 or 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 war time in the United States, if a sentry falls asleep on duty, he may face the death penalty under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.[9]

Notable incidents

On December 14, 1947, a Washington, D.C. police officer was fined $75 for sleeping while on duty.[10]

In October 2007, four Italian air traffic controllers were suspended after they were caught asleep while on duty.[11]

Also in October 2007, a CBS news story revealed nearly a dozen security guards at a nuclear power plant who were videotaped sleeping while on duty.[12]

In 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 safely.[13]

In February, 2009, the co-pilot on Colgan Air Flight 3407 was known to be sleep-deprived, which contributed to the fatal crash of the plane.[14]

See also




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