More than 85% of mammalian species on earth sleep for a short period of time throughout the day. For humans, our day is divided into two distinct periods day and night means we sleep at night and awake at daytime; however, it is not clear that this is the natural sleep pattern for humans. For an example, elderly persons and children sleep during daytime as well.
A nap or short sleep has significant importance in various cultures. It is also advocated that a short nap increases employee productivity at work.
The myth is that Siesta was originated from Spain; however, napping has its roots in Islam and is mentioned in the Quran. The word Siesta in Latin means Hora Sexto – means the sixth hour, mid-day rest time. Ancient Indians had a term “Sutana” means afternoon rest. Also, ancient Indians used to practice Shavasana a Yoga position where you just lay down on your back and meditate. In ancient Rome, it was a physical necessity rather than Luxury. In Bengali, the word “Bhat- Ghum” means rice sleep after a lunch.
In China, afternoon sleep is a common practice after midday meal and word for it is “Wujjao” Almost all schools in China have half-hour nap period for the kids after lunch. At this time all lights are off and no one is allowed to do anything rather than rest of sleep.
In Nordic countries, traditionally a nap during the afternoon was a common practice. In Mediterranean countries, a nap during the day is very common and day-to-day life is designed in a way to accommodate a short nap in the afternoon. According to a survey done in 2009 about 16% Spaniards have mentioned to taken a nap daily.
In Middle Eastern culture, the most of the shops and malls are closed during the afternoon to accommodate a nap. In rural parts of India, farmer’s daily schedule is designed in a way to accommodate the afternoon nap by long 3-4 hours of lunch break.
It is proven that the “Power Nap” (a term coined by Cornell University’s psychologist James Mass) improves heart function, repairs the cells, and a little sleep during the day improves the productivity of the brain.
It is clear that most cultures had this traditional practice and had already identified the need for the nap to increase productivity. However, after the industrial revolution and start of the shift work demanded the elimination of long lunch breaks. These demanding work hours made napping during work an ultimate offense even ground for a dismissal.
Some forward-thinking companies are trying to bring the “Siesta” culture back to the business. It all began with New York based Kodiak Capital Group’s investment banking office. When the company started to capture the international market some genius suggested getting a comfortable couch so that bankers can relax and trade while stretching their legs. Kodiak states that one-third of its employees takes a nap on regular basis. It’s a simple logic – well-rested employee means better performance.
Google was the next big company to take initiative to increase company’s productivity. Google started “nap rooms” in its Mountain View, California location by launching “Energy Pods” where employees can hide in a capsule and set timers to wake up.
Energy Pods are becoming more prevalent in the workplaces like Google, AOL, Cisco and Huffington Media Group where the stress level is high. Today Nap rooms have become a more commonplace amenity for companies looking to bill themselves as fun, dynamic places to work.
Nike has nap-friendly rooms where employees can sneak into the quiet rooms for meditation and napping.
British Airways and Continental allow their crew to sleep during international flights.
A survey conducted by Society For Human Resource Management, 6% of workplaces have a “nap room”.
The Big Question: How long to Nap?
5-10 minutes nap: Studies shows that this nap increases alertness, stamina and learning capabilities.
20 minutes nap – Power Nap: Increases productivity, clears brain by removing the build up of useless information, and helps long-term memory.
50 – 90 minutes nap: Includes REM sleep, a complete restart of the brain, well for muscle recovery.
If Siesta is good, increases productivity then why Spanish PM wants to kill Siesta? Spanish Labor Minister Fátima Báñez proposed to move in a new time zone cutting siesta and ending the day at 6 PM so that workers can go home early and spend time with family.
I am a very big fan of Siesta. In my previous work setting at CIBC on 2224 Victoria Avenue East, we had a huge lunch room in the basement that did not have a window. I was allowed a one-hour lunch break so I started laying down on the couch in the lunch room. At first, others saw that as unprofessional, but I carried on. I used to simply wind up lunch in 15-20 minutes, remove my coat and tie, and started sleeping on the couch.
A few days later, almost everyone started napping on the couch and most of the time couch was not available as someone is always sleeping there. Yes, I have found that a nap is very productive and increases productivity.
Thanks for reading!
1) Naska, A., Oikonomou, E., Trichopoulou, A., Psaltopoulou, T. and Trichopoulos, D. (2007). "Siesta in healthy adults and coronary mortality in the general population". Archives of Internal Medicine, 167, 296-301.