Healthy Habits

Modern Siestas

woman taking nap in living room

Content provided by the Health & Wellness Team at GBS Benefits

In the small town of Ador, Spain, the siesta is viewed as sacred. A siesta is a time of day when shops in Spain and in other hot climates close for a few hours in the afternoon, allowing people to eat, rest, and escape the heat. Although this tradition is associated with Spain, it originated with the ancient Romans in Italy.

The word siesta means “sixth hour,” referring to noon which occurs roughly six hours after dawn. The siesta has become such an integral Spanish tradition that in 2015 the mayor of Ador created a law preserving citizens’ right to an afternoon nap.

The benefits of taking a siesta appear to be dependent on the length of time spent sleeping. A nap longer than thirty minutes often leaves individuals feeling groggy and disoriented. However, a nap between ten and thirty minutes can boost alertness, learning ability, and cognitive performance.

Research shows that taking one to two naps per week can also reduce risk of cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attack, heart failure, or stroke. Mid-day naps can help reduce sleep debt and improve the brain’s ability to consolidate memories and regulate emotions effectively.

The trick to an effective siesta is entering stage one and stage two sleep but not stage three sleep. During stage one sleep, your body slows down and your muscles relax. In stage two sleep, your heartbeat slows down.

Here are some tips for incorporating a siesta into your routine:

  • Try using an eye mask to block out light, as darkness can help induce sleep.
  • Set an alarm for 30 minutes to avoid the drowsiness that comes from entering stage three sleep.
  • Find a relaxing guided meditation or music to help you fall asleep faster.
  • Avoid distraction by leaving electronics in another room.

While the siesta tradition is famous worldwide, it is losing popularity in many areas. Mid-day naps have become less necessary in the modern age due to air conditioning that keeps workplaces cool no matter how hot it is outside. Longer commutes also make it difficult to return home within an appropriate amount of time.

While it may not be possible to curl up under your desk for a 20-minute snooze each day, there are ways to produce similar benefits.

Recharge and relax by trying some of the following suggestions:

  • Call a loved one during your lunch break.
  • Enjoy a healthy snack away from your desk.
  • Try these desk stretches: https://www.healthline.com/health/deskercise.
  • Read a non-work-related book.
  • Select a new desktop background.
  • Listen to music.
  • Go outside to eat lunch or take a walk.
  • Plan your evening activities.

References

Häusler N, Haba-Rubio J, Heinzer R, Marques-Vidal P. Association of napping with incident cardiovascular events in a prospective cohort study. Heart. 2019 Dec;105(23):1793-1798. doi: 10.1136/heartjnl-2019-314999. Epub 2019 Sep 9. PMID: 31501230.

https://english.elpais.com/elpais/2015/07/31/inenglish/1438325740_052245.html

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