Eric Reguly, European Bureau Chief of the Globe and Mail, tells us that the Spanish siesta is under threat. The government wants to kill it; the Prime Minister says “Spain is ready to end the nap and join the 21st century.” The motivation apparently is to shorten the working day; now Spaniards who take siestas work from 8 until 2, are off too snooze until 4 or 5, and then work until 8 in the evening. Then it is out for dinner.
The problem is, the siesta takers are right and the rest of us are wrong. Reguly admits this:
Lately, advocates of the siesta have cited its health benefits. Some doctors recommend a mini-siesta, which are called power naps in North America and Britain. Margaret Thatcher was among the advocates of the power nap and its alleged midday regenerative powers.
In Spain, it was all about avoiding the heat. Barbara Flanagan wrote in ID Magazine about keeping cool with culture instead of contraptions, about designing your lifestyle around your climate instead of cranking up the AC:
Rather than rely on machines, and wreck their old architecture with window units and ducts, they design their habits, hardware, clothes, and attitude to cool themselves off. Now their deference seems sustainably avant-garde.
This, of course, is something we should all be doing: adapting to local conditions, instead of applying a uniform pattern and temperature and house design to everyone as we do now.
In Barcelona, the siesta-syncopated day is not sleepy at all. In fact each day seems longer, more productive, and punctuated with more urgency. There are, for example, four rush hours instead of two, but each commute is short. You leave near your work, so you can keep in rhythm with everyone else. (A one-hour commute, acceptable to Americans, is absurd to a Catalan)
Today, Reguly says it’s all about business.
He [the Prime Minister] also thinks it would improve worker productivity, broadly defined as gross domestic product (in effect, the output of wealth) per hour of work. “Spain has low productivity even though the Spanish people work pretty much longer than anyone in Europe,” he said.
However TreeHugger has also noted seven,yes seven benefits of naps, from memory boosts to lower blood pressure to enhanced creativity and improved alertness. It could lower medical costs too; we quote a doctor who said: "We also found that hypertensive patients who slept at noon were under fewer antihypertensive medications compared to those who didn't sleep midday."
So in fact, naps might actually increase productivity.
Really, instead of killing the siesta, Spain should be exporting it. And on that note, it’s time for a nap.