The American average for a good night’s sleep usually sits at about eight hours per night. For some people, this can be a difficult goal to achieve, due to work, lifestyle factors, or discomfort during sleep itself. Enter la siesta.
The word siesta is actually a Spanish term for a nap, one that gives you the extra pep in your step required to get through the second half of your day.
One of the most interesting things about the siesta is how culturally specific it can be - in Latin America, Mediterranean countries, and even some parts of Southeast Asia, siestas are commonly practiced and understood to be a core part of well-being.
In fact, in some parts of Spain, the city closes down between two to five to account for the time people might require for a siesta. So is there any actual science that backs the benefits of a siesta? Here’s everything you need to know about sneaking in an afternoon nap:
In the early 90s, researchers from the University of Athens Medical School collaborated with the Harvard School of Public Health to study over 23,000 Greek men and women. Each participant was healthy when they enrolled in the study, and reported their napping habits, as well as other lifestyle factors such as whether they smoked, were employed, and exercised.
Over the next six years, a little over 130 members of the study died from coronary artery disease - these were linked to advanced age, smoking, and abdominal obesity. On the other hand, a routine amount of exercise, a healthy diet, and gainful employment all seemed to contribute positively to a good night’s sleep.
One of the more surprising facts of the study revealed that siestas actually had a positive impact on the longevity and quality of life experienced by participants. When participants had some nap time scheduled into their daily routine, they were 34% more likely to outlive those who did not. This is after accounting for other risk factors - not an insignificant number!
While the Harvard Public Health study revealed some exciting possibilities about the benefits of napping, it should be taken with a healthy pinch of salt, oversleeping can be damaging to overall health, and cultural differences in attitudes towards work can also contribute to different personal impacts.
Naps can also be disruptive to a good night’s sleep, so if you do plan on incorporating one into your daily routine, try to restrict it to be around twenty to forty minutes at most. You should also expect to be a bit groggy right after you’ve woken up, so be sure to account for ten minutes of recalibration as you get back to your day.
The best way to test out if having a dedicated nap time is going to make a positive contribution to your life is by trying it out. Naps can be especially useful for shift workers, new parents, those whose jobs require hard labor, and those who struggle to get a good night’s sleep through the night.
If you’re struggling to get a full night of sleep, even after having integrated nap time into your routine, you’ll want to review your tools. Make sure you have the best mattress for a good night’s sleep, keep your sleep hygiene habits in order, and take a little time for yourself to unplug, wind down, and really switch off to ensure a proper night of blissful sleep.
If it worked for you in pre-school, it might just work for you as an adult - try and integrate nap time into your daily routine to have a real understanding of how it can impact your rest.
Disclaimer. We love sleep and we want you to get the best sleep possible. But we do not provide medical advice. This blog is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical info, diagnosis, or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on our blog.