You’ve probably heard the word siesta, a Spanish word that describes taking an afternoon or mid-day nap. In Spain, Latin America, and in other Spanish-speaking countries around the world (like Greece, Italy, the Philippines, and Nigeria), the siesta is part of the daily schedule. During the hottest point of each day (typically around noon,) people take a siesta, which can last anywhere from 15-30 minutes to two hours.
While taking a siesta is now seen more as a luxury than a necessity, modern day Spain is still built around the siesta. Cities shut down from 2-5 p.m. to accommodate and encourage siestas. People often use this time not only to nap but also to go home and spend time with family and friends.
While many of our schedules and cities are not built around siestas, you still may be wondering if you should find a way to take a siesta during the day? Also, does taking a nap in the middle of the day have any benefits?
The short answer: There are definitely benefits to incorporating a short nap into your day. Here are a few potential benefits of a daily nap.
- Recharging – Even just a 20 minute nap can help enhance your motor skills and sense of attention. Not only will you feel more alert immediately after a 20-minute nap, but that alertness can extend a few hours into the day. Sleeping 60-90 minutes can help your brain make new connections and help you solve problems you may have been working on before lunch. Timing matters, too: if you nap for a length of time somewhere between 20-90 minutes, you may wake up feeling groggy.
- Stress relief – Taking a brief nap every day helps lower tension throughout the body and stress, which in turn may support a healthy heart.
- Feeling better – Naps can be great for maintaining a healthy mood, especially if you slept poorly the night before. Getting in a little extra rest may even help to elevate your mood and provide you with a sense of vitality. A brief afternoon nap may also be much better than an afternoon or early evening coffee as caffeine can get in the way of a restful night’s sleep (starting the sleepless cycle all over again.)
- Focus and clarity – A NASA study showed that a 40-minute nap improved military pilot and astronaut performance by 34%.
- Personal and work safety – If you drive for your commute, a nap may make you a safer driver. Many people choose to drive even when feeling sleepy, which sharply increases the risk of having a drowsy driving crash. If you are driving and find yourself feeling too drowsy, you should immediately pull over, have a caffeinated beverage, and take a 20 minute nap.
When Should I Consider Napping?
If you’re able to work a short nap into your daily schedule, then go for it! For those who might not be able to make it a daily practice, here are some times that you should still consider a nap:
- If you’re experiencing new fatigue or sleepiness.
- If your job performance or mood is suffering because of sleepiness.
- If you know you’re about to experience sleep loss, like if you have an upcoming long work shift.
- If you just want to start incorporating naps into your routine.
Tips to Remember for Napping
- The ideal nap length is either 20-30 minutes, or 90 minutes. Outside of that range, you may end up feeling groggy when you wake up.
- Take a nap after lunch when your blood sugar and energy starts to fall.
- Nap in a comfortable and dark room with few distractions so that you can fall asleep more easily.
- Even if you don’t fall asleep, even lying down with your eyes closed in a dark and quiet room can be beneficial.
- Don’t nap too late in the day as this can throw off your sleep patterns at night.