Spanish Siestas & Mental Health

You may have seen some headlines this week about Spain's Prime Minister proposing to end the country's famous "siesta" - a country-wide nap in the middle of the workday.  What is your reaction to this? You may react with strong feelings of jealousy here - a group nap at work? Sounds pretty good to me. Why would anyone want to change that? You may scoff thinking about the lost productivity hours and time wasted by taking a long break every afternoon.  

We feel pretty strongly in favour of the Spanish siesta, based on how it might contribute to overall health and wellness in workplaces. We are an under slept society, with most Canadians getting less than the recommend 7-9 hours of sleep per night. We also know that lack of sleep can cause various physical and cognitive changes in ourselves, including potential development of chronic disease, weight gain, trouble making decisions, impulsivity, reduced productivity, memory changes and more. We all complain about being tired, yet procrastinate when it comes time to go to sleep, staying up late watching Netflix or scrolling through Twitter. Many people have trouble falling or staying asleep throughout the night for various reasons (read about some strategies to improve your sleep in one of our previous posts here.)

Taking breaks and incorporating a nap into a work day is one way to counter some of the issues related to lack of sleep. A "cat nap" - a light nap that lasts between 10-40 minutes - can re-energize and re-focus us after working in the morning and early afternoon. Taking breaks throughout the workday to change your scenery, get up from your desk, exercise, eat or socialize can also help keep us productive and focused.

Some workplaces have designated "nap rooms" for employees to use when they feel they need a rest. Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post takes regular naps in her office, and purposely leaves her curtains open to show her employee's that taking a break like this is encouraged. 

It may not be realistic for every workplace to take on the Spanish siesta, but bringing it up at your work might help start the conversation about other types of breaks that are suitable for your work environment. Think about how you can bring this up in an upcoming team meeting. As the weather gets nicer (slowly but surely...), maybe you can implement a group walk. Maybe you can start a mindfulness meditation group with your colleagues, and take 15 minutes every afternoon to focus on that. There are many ways to implement breaks and pacing into your workday to increase productivity and employee wellness.

Let us know what your workplace is doing in the comments below! 


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