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The Science of Siesta

Posted on February 18, 2020 | No Comments on The Science of Siesta

Temptation is at hand as one thinks about curling up on the desk, escaping from the noise, and refreshing both mind and body by catching a few Z’s in the afternoon. This is Siesta, a part of Filipino culture seen in many Latin American countries and Spain.

During the Spanish colonial era, Filipino farmers spent each afternoon with a quick slumber under the shade of a mango tree while the sun blazed out in the fields. The Spaniards raised their eyebrows over this activity, accusing most of them with indolence. The national hero Jose P Rizal, however, defended his fellowmen, pointing out that it is quite impractical to work under the blazing sun, and better if one recharged before going back to work.

Dr. Agnes Tirona-Remulla, a “sleep doctor” based at the Asian Hospital and Medical Center who specializes in otorhinolaryngology, agrees with this. According to her, a power nap is definitely recommended for any one of any age to re-energize. Its wonders may be underestimated by some, but in truth, there is more to power napping than meets the eye.

Some shuteye basics
A power nap must be strictly between 15 to 20 minutes—no more, no less. The purpose is to acquire a refreshed state and thus, naps should be crucially taken within the ideal time frame, as it may beat the body down even more if wrongfully done.

Too short a nap does not re-energize, leaving an individual still tired and weary. But it does not mean one is home free to sneak in a few minutes of naptime either. Excessive naptime results in sleep inertia, a physiological condition where the body enters into a deep sleep, but once interrupted and awakened, the body feels too sluggish and too groggy to function.

All employees, whether on daytime, nighttime, or even ever-changing shifts, are advised to have a nap at a certain time in their schedule, advises Dr. Remulla.

For the usual daytime worker, an after lunch nap is perfect, but for those working in the evening shift such as call center agents or nurses, the “sleep doctor” said a power nap right before you jump into work is excellent to keep you up and going through the entire shift.

Why nap at all?
Dr. Remulla tells that throughout the day, a natural dip in alertness occurs, thus it is completely natural to feel sleepy at this time of the day. Rather than look at it in a bad light, this brief drowsiness can be used to the employee’s advantage.

Various researchers have shown that catching a few Z’s during work time doubles productivity later in the day. By simply taking a cat nap during this momentary energy low, you will have more energy through the rest of the day as you wake up, as compared to those who ignore the sleepiness by working more.

Dr. Remulla expresses dismay that majority of the workforce in the Philippines frown upon napping, despite its benefits to a person’s productivity and work output. Ironically, while siesta is considered a part of our culture, the nation sees napping as a form of laziness.

On the worker’s side, he overlooks his drowsiness to avoid guilt or to steer clear from trouble despite his struggling battle to keep his eyelids from drooping down to the floor. Employers, on the other hand, find nap breaks a sting in the eye, only seeing it as a hindrance to productivity.

The stigma on siesta is seen in the wrong light. It is more than just the disambiguation of laziness but rather, should be viewed as a powerful tool that can be used for the improvement of one’s well-being and work performance.

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