The siesta is the quintessential Spanish custom and many studies have shown that, performed correctly, it can offer a number of advantages. The origin of this short midday nap comes from the ancient Roman Empire where at the “sixth hour” (which would be two in the afternoon), all work would stop to rest gather strength. If you want to improve your quality of life, pay attention and don’t miss any details in these ten reasons on why you should adopt this Spanish custom which is correctly held to be one of the healthiest human habits.
1. Regains strength
Getting up early, the hustle and bustle of travelling, job stress and a long list of other activities we carry out every day cause us to lose strength as time passes by. The siesta helps us regain energy and strength, helping us face the rest of the day. This typical Spanish custom is an important respite that allows us to continue working with more physical and mental energy. If you do have a siesta, never forget that it must not be more than 45 minutes long, otherwise the effects are the opposite, you wake up even more tired.
2. Relaxes your heart
The benefits a siesta has on the heart are astonishing. Different studies from American universities agree that resting in the middle of the working day helps reduce cardiac stress. It showed that 12% of people who occasionally sleep after lunch had heart problems while in those who continue with what they did normally, this figure rises to 37%. If you have any medical condition of this type, make sure you have a siesta after lunch.
3. Relieves physical tension
A good nap relieves physical tension and leaves the body ready to continue working. Often we have a headache, we overwork our back or our muscles. A nap is more effective in many cases than medicine. As we relax completely, we rest our body and when we start the activity we are doing again, we approach it with more energy. Above all, if your job involves a lot of physical work, taking a siesta will improve your muscles and relieve stress which can be a problem later.
4. Increases mental response
While a siesta has physical benefits which are more than proven, it is also a mentally healthy and rewarding practice. It is proven that people who have a moderate siesta wake up with increased mental response. Reflexes, reasoning and thinking are all sharpened upon waking. The same applies to concentration, and so, as a result, after a siesta we are ready to put our five senses to use for anything.
5. Indispensable for the elderly and children
In children under five, a siesta is strictly necessary for physical and neurological development. Older people also need some sleep after eating because it helps the body rest and to better spend the rest of the day. This gives our older family members a better quality of life and makes them better able to withstand the typical aches and pains.
6. Helps complete sleep cycles
Recent research shows that napping helps complete sleep cycles and prevents sleeping disorders. The fatigue that can accumulate if we don’t have a siesta means that we can become tired too early, meaning we fall asleep and then wake up early, not being able to get back to sleep. On occasion, extreme fatigue may even prevent us from getting to sleep. If you have problems when sleeping at night, try resting after lunch so that you can regulate it better.
7. Enhances alertness
If you have the opportunity to have a siesta, don’t hesitate to do so. Another advantage taken from doing this is to improve alertness. The mind is opened, the senses sharpened and it helps us improve our reflexes. Both movements and thoughts flow more quickly. This is so popular that there are even airlines which require their pilots to sleep about 20 minutes before flying so that they concentrate better at work.
8. Improves digestion
Digestion is a natural process of our body that requires a higher concentration of blood in our stomach which provides oxygen, helping metabolism occur. It is important to relax after lunch in order to ensure that this takes place calmly and correctly. A siesta provides our body with the necessary tranquillity so that the whole process can take place without problems. If you have digestive problems, a good siesta can work wonders.
9. Helps with free time
Who has not gone home after work and found that they didn’t have the strength to do anything else? We’ve all experienced that feeling of tiredness that just leaves us sitting or lying on the sofa in our house. If we have a siesta, we regain our strength, and the end of our working day, we can go to the gym, meet friends or walk around town. It is a way of organising our energy usage throughout the day.
10. Power naps in companies
All the benefits that come from having a good nap have been implemented by many companies worldwide. A short break after lunch tends to reduce consumption of caffeine and increases productivity at work. While in the West this practice is not very common, in eastern countries like Japan, the power nap, a siesta taken after lunch, is becoming more popular in companies which find their employees often work better afterwards. Google, for example, offers dark, soundproof booths for their employees to sleep in.
Now you know what the benefits of napping are, but don’t forget that it can be a double-edged sword if not done correctly. The ideal length of a siesta is between 20 and 40 minutes: if you sleep for more time, you may find yourself suffering from negative effects. You should also know that having a siesta after six in the evening is not recommended as it can alter your sleep cycle. Have a siesta after lunch to regain your strength and spend the rest of the day in a healthy and more energetic way.