Why is a siesta good for the health?
At work or on holiday, there are multiple benefits to a siesta . A short break can be the equivalent of around three hours of sleep. A siesta lets us improve our mental and physiological performances and also our immunity defences. Setting aside a sleep time during the day also helps to stimulate the concentration and the memory, and to therefore stay sharp all day long.
However the siesta is not a set idea in every culture. In Japan, it is highly thought of, particularly in the world of work. The “inemuri”, sleeping while one is present » », in its literal translation, is a current practice for theJapanese. Sleeping during working time proves that you are exerting yourself. In France, this practice would be seen as the opposite. But customs change. A good number of companies concerned with the well-being of their employees create a salles de pause to allow everyone to relax se détendre.
When to take a siesta?
To find out the perfect moment for a siesta, we just have to look at its etymology. « Siesta » comes from the Latin sexta hora, la « « sixth hour » », which, for the Romans, was at midday. In French culture, the right time is considered to be the moment after lunch, in other words 1pm to 3pm. A siesta therefore promotes good digestion.
What is the ideal length for a siesta?
After a spell of tiredness or a poor night’s sleep, the temptation to take a deep sleep for a long time may seem irresistible. However, a short nap is more effective, between ten and twenty minutes, on average. During a « power nap », the sleep phase may last only two to three minutes and still be beneficial. Long siestas of an hour and a half may compensate for a real lack of sleep, but they should not become the norm. In fact, with anything beyond twenty minutes, you run the risk of waking up groggy. If the brain enters into a deep sleep phase, it is in inertia. It begins to filter and memorise information just as in the middle of the night, and also to secrete hormones. Waking up will break this cycle and the person will not only not feel rested, but will also feel disorientated.
Some advice for taking a good nap
It is important to decide on a quiet space to have a rest. This does not have to mean complete silence. The sounds of nature can help you to relax, unlike the harsh sounds of the town or city. The aim is to combine relaxation of the body and mind. It is even possible to play some gentle music at a low volume.
The same goes for light. Natural light will not prevent sleep, but you should avoid the direct glare of the sun. In the summer, it is beneficial to rest in the shade of a tree or under a parasol. While some people are used to sleeping in complete darkness, when taking a siesta it is better to avoid drawing the curtains if they block out too much light, as there is the risk that the brain believes it to be night-time.
Check that the temperature is neither too hot or too cold. Choose a cool environment of around 18 °C. Cover up with a light blanket. Even if the air may seem chilly, getting warmer will actually lead to a disturbance in the structure of sleep, which is shown by an increase in intra-sleep awakenings and a fragmentation of REM sleep which is harmful to rest.
As for the position in which to sleep, it is best to be lying down or semi-lying. In order to prevent the temptation of a long siesta, avoid lying down on your bed, and choose a sun lounger on a covered terrace or a relax chair for example. Avoid using a pillow as it raises the head and neck and lightly stresses the body. It is better to opt for a horizontal position, or eve with the legs slightly raised in the zero gravity position, with the thighs and chest forming an angle of 127°. The position of the hands also plays a part. Ideally, the palms should face up in order to help the body to relax.
Finally, waking from a nap is also crucial. It is advisable to wake up gently, opening the eyes gradually, and taking the time to breathe deeply. Take a minute to calmly sit yourself back up correctly. Gently massage your face. To help you surface, go out for a breath of fresh air, walk and make the most of the daylight to wake yourself up gently. Some stretching and breathing exercises can also do some good. Setting aside a daily time for rest is beneficial for the health and one’s mood, and this is why taking a siesta should not be considered just as a way to make up for lost night-time sleep.