Risposo in Italy, inemuri in Japan or simply siesta in Spain and other countries— call it what you may, but research has shown that a short nap after the midday meal or lunch can do wonders for the body.
In India, the practice of sleeping for a little while during the day has been in existence for centuries. Even the Greek traveller Megasthenes, who visited India over two millennia ago, made a note in his writings of how Indians enjoyed a nap after lunch.
In China, lunch is given a lot of importance and so is the nap that follows. With rice and noodles being their staple food, drowsiness is inevitable for the Chinese post a heavy meal. Similar is the case with Indians, most of whom eat rice for lunch.
No wonder my father-in-law who used to work at the Chinese Embassy, in the publishing department, is used to taking a nap after lunch every day. At work, they would all just clear their tables and sleep on them for about half an hour every day, post lunch. It was a sort of official nap time. And my father-in-law swears that it really helped them get back to work with renewed energy. He became so used to it that even after retirement, he cannot survive without his siesta, so much so that even if there are guests in the house, he excuses himself for ten minutes to rest. And that is all it takes to freshen him up.
In fact, the Chinese consider the siesta a sort of fundamental right because it is provided for by the law! If the Chinese are able to enjoy a break of two or two and a half hours every day, at school and also in offices, daily, why can’t Indians also follow the same practice?
Does that mean a siesta is good enough to be made mandatory at the workplace?
Researchers have found that even losing 16 minutes of sleep can greatly impact the productivity and performance of an employee the following day. If sleep is that important, why not allow employees to catch up on their sleep during the day, at the workplace? Right after lunch would be the ideal time.
People who are not sleep deprived are able to focus better on the tasks at hand, deliver error-free work and display better cognitive functions and faster reaction time.
Spain too has a culture of taking short naps after lunch. In Spain, all shops and establishments usually remain shut for two hours in the afternoon, post lunch. This gives employees time to go home, eat and rest during the day when the heat is at its peak.
In fact, all warm countries follow this practice, including Greece, Slovenia, Taiwan,Philippines and Serbia. In Japan, workers who sleep at work are not admonished. Rather, it is considered to be an indication of their dedication.
Cat naps are said to boost memory too. So why not incorporate it into the daily office routine?
Not everyone agrees that short naps at work are healthy. There are some who feel that the siesta induces laziness and deviates from professionalism. Some sleep experts say that daytime sleep can make it more difficult for employees to sleep at night.
But the benefits far outweight the drawbacks. While Ben & Jerrys, the ice cream manufacturing company has introduced nap rooms for its employees, Google has installed napping pods for its staff at its California headquarters, to take cat naps. These hi-tech pods not only play soothing music but also wake up employees when it is time to return to work.
While it will be a great idea for India Inc. to actually give an official nod to nap time at the workplace, care has to be taken to ensure that these naps remain really short. It is true that even ten minutes away from work and gadgets will do wonders for an exhausted body and brain, but a 20-minute break would be just ideal!