Time for a Siesta?

Florence Cardinal Health Guide
  • March 15 was National Napping Day. I'll bet it slipped by without your noticing. It did for me. However, all is not lost. You can declare any day your National Napping Day and take the time to catch up on a bit of sleep.


    National Napping Day was instituted in 1999 by William Anthony, a professor of rehabilitation counseling at Boston University Sargent School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, and his wife, Camille. It falls on the day after the spring time change because many people are naturally sleepy that day.


    National Napping Day may be just one day in America. However, in other countries, it occurs every day and is called 'Siesta.'

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    According to Wikipedia: "A siesta is a short nap taken in the early afternoon, often after the midday meal."


    Studies show that, in the early afternoon, we become less alert and our body temperature tends to drop, similar to what happens to us when our bodies are preparing to sleep in the evening. Many cultures, especially those in hot countries, have a long history of taking siestas in the afternoon, often closing down businesses for an hour or more.


    Is the siesta, then, a natural phenomena? Research reported Medical News Today suggests that it is. Results published in the scientific journal Neuron at the University of Manchester, in England, show that brain cells that keep us alert slow down after we eat. The sugar in food (glucose) stops the brain cells from producing signals that keep us awake. There may also be a link to obesity and eating disorders.


    The siesta originated in Portugal and was adopted by the Spaniards, perhaps as recently as the Spanish American War, but other sources hint at a far more distant origin. The siesta spread to Latin America and the Philippines. It's also a part of the culture of some Asian and African countries.


    Part of the reason for the siesta in the above countries is the heat of midday, but now it appears that the heat wasn't the only reason for the afternoon nap.

    Are other cultures aware of something that seems to have passed us by? Or are these people only following their natural body instincts?


    Some employers may be starting to understand that a short nap restores energy and keeps employees more alert. Management Guide F. John Reh at About.com reports that, although some employers still frown on sleeping on the job "Now we have companies, and whole industries, encouraging workers to sleep during the business day."


    Whether you call it a siesta or a nap, perhaps it's what our bodies and our minds need to regenerate, stay alert and take care of business.



Published On: March 23, 2010