Viva la Siesta!

>> Monday, February 22, 2010

Last Sunday, the American Association for the Advancement of Science revealed data that confirms the benefits of napping. But SSW’s own Cornelius Kelly already knew that.

Viva la Siesta

By Cornelius Kelly

VP Copy Supervisor, Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness

Extolling the virtues of an afternoon siesta on the company blog may sound subversive, but it makes good business sense. Regular naps help reduce stress, improve concentration and curb irritability, which could make us all more productive employees.

Why We Nap

The siesta has been around for thousands of years and was usually seen as a physical necessity rather than a luxury. We all notice a drop in energy levels in the afternoon. Recent research has shown that it’s perfectly natural. Our biological clock, which regulates body functions such as blood pressure, heart rate and body temperature, also tells us when to rest. This happens about 8 hours after we wake up in the morning and then again at night. Eating lunch doesn’t necessarily bring on drowsiness, although a heavy midday meal with lots of carbs and alcohol can make us even more tired.

The Advantages Are Many

According to NASA, a short 10 to 20 minute nap in the middle of a working day can increase productivity by over 30% and alertness by 100%. Another study conducted by the Harvard Medical School proved that afternoon naps help improve memory. Subjects in the study were trained in a few memory tasks, and then half of them took 45-minute naps. Those who learned the tasks prior to the nap retained the information better than those who had stayed awake. So, after your next marathon meeting, head to the nearest beanbag. If people complain, tell them you’re doing it for the benefit of the company.

Afternoon naps do more than make us better employees. It seems they also help reduce the risk of illness. A study of 24,000 men and women conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health and the University of Athens Medical School found that a short nap in the afternoon reduced the risk of heart disease by 34%. And, since drowsiness is often the cause of accidents, a quick nap can restore concentration and alertness and help us avoid mishaps.

Creating the Optimum Conditions

The type of nap most often recommended for improved health and productivity is a short one – even 5 minutes can help. Think of it as shutting down the engine and letting it cool off for a few minutes.

Ideally, you should lie down in a comfortable position so your body can relax more easily. And of course, it’s best to nap in a place where you’re not in full view. Here are a few tips:

• Set your alarm for 10-20 minutes and disconnect your phones

• Use a yoga or exercise mat. Or sit back in your chair and use a cushion or flight pillow

• Close your eyes – an eye mask can help cut out bright light

• Let your mind go blank. Even if you don’t actually sleep, the process will relax and refresh your mind

• Just after your nap, drink a glass of water and eat a small piece of chocolate. These will help revive you and get rid of that groggy feeling.

Know that you’re in good company when you take a siesta. Consider these successful people who napped regularly:

• Bill Clinton, while President of the United States

• Napoleon, while sitting on his horse between battles

• Churchill, to cope with his wartime responsibilities

• Einstein, to help him think more clearly.

Even if it’s difficult to take time out to nap every day of the workweek, fairly regular siestas, especially on weekends, are a great way to enhance wellness.


Post a Comment