Sleepy Catalans reclaim their siestas

Apr 05 2005 by Brian Amble Print This Article

The gradual demise of the mid-afternoon siesta in recent years has left Spain as a nation of sleepy souls who wake early and stay up (very) late, but no longer stop to nap in between. As a result, Spaniards get an average of 40 minutes less sleep than the European average.

But now it seems that the siesta is staging a comeback with Sunday's Independent reporting that employers in Catalonia are increasingly accepting the lunchtime snooze as part of the working day.

Research worldwide reveals that professional productivity improves among those who nap after lunch, La Vanguardia [newspaper] notes. Studies confirm what any office worker knows, that between 2pm and 4pm you feel a little sluggish. Accordingly, one of Spain's most successful companies, the Catalan-based MRW courier service, has installed reclining chairs in its offices, both in Barcelona and Madrid, into which employees may slump, with the additional offer of a soothing massage.

…Francisco Loscos, professor at Barcelona's Esade business school, said: "Companies want their people to be as motivated as possible; so, many invest in everything to promote the happiness and relaxation of their workers, and that includes the siesta."

Among the research alluded to by the Independent is a study by the National Institute of Industrial Health in Japan which found that for workers who took a 15-minute nap during the post-lunch period, "perceived alertness was significantly higher in the afternoon after the nap than after no nap." Harvard researchers also found that a midday nap reverses information overload.

Ironically (given that it was 'Anglo-Saxon' working practices that did for the siesta in the first place), the idea of a truncated 'power siesta' has even caught on in the USA. For $14 a pop, sleepy New Yorkers can emulate the Catalans and head for the 24th floor of the Empire State Building where MetroNaps provide rows of automated ‘shut-eye pods’ into which they can dive for 20 minutes of rest.

The Independent | How enterprise capital of Spain found siestas are good for business