Taking a good siesta has a few advantages, but how should you take a restorative siesta? What is the ideal length for a siesta? Find our advice
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 "salle de pause" to allow everyone to relax "se détendre".
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.
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.