In Praise of the Nana Nap

Jun 30, 2020

Some urges should be steadfastly resisted. Like tattooing the back of your neck, or reaching for another fistful of Pringles.

But when that delicious post-lunch sopor seduces you, experts reckon you should give in to it wholeheartedly. Forty winks in the afternoon will, they say, do wonders for your alertness, reaction times, mood, memory, productivity and stress levels.

A 15 to 60-minute daytime doze has the equivalent effect of a caffeine or sugar fix, but without the undesired side effects of long-term dependence, troll teeth and belt overhang.

Research has shown that motor learning – where neural pathways change in response to learning a new skill – is significantly greater among regular daytime nappers than non-nappers. An early- to mid-afternoon zizz is best, but any time is fine if the urge strikes.

The Spanish have known this for centuries. The modern-day siesta originated in Spain, partly as a way of conserving energy during the hottest part of the day. The tradition spread with the Spanish conquistadors to colonies like Mexico and Chile, and is also widely observed in Italy, Greece and The Philippines.

But day napping actually dates much further back – to ancient Rome and early Islam. In fact, siesta stems from the Latin for “sixth hour” and refers to circadian rhythms, the natural cycles of sleepiness and alertness that affect our brains over a 24-hour period. The sixth hour (after dawn) is when cognitive function starts to slow again, and a restorative nap is most beneficial.

In this flexible, post-Covid, work-from-home epoch, scheduling a siesta has become considerably easier than it was in your open plan office with clear line of sight from your boss’s office. So, do yourself a favour and put the feet up, let the eyelids droop, and drift… drift…

Mmmmmm. Pringles.

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