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How to take a nap and recharge your batteries?

The cliché says that Spaniards have a siesta every day. The truth is that not everyone can afford that luxury - and it's not a Spanish phenomenon, but an international one. The siesta is in fashion, and businesses the world over are looking at its potential to increase efficiency at work.

You don't have to be a genius to appreciate the value of a good restorative sleep during the day. But is a siesta really a good thing? How does it affect our daily life, our ability to concentrate and our health?

At Endesa we're concerned that you get the most from your energy. From electricity and gas, of course, but also from the most valuable energy you possess: your vital energy. So we've compiled the main conclusions from the scientific community to help you take efficient siestas. 

An efficient nap

A review of scientific research on the siesta generally shows certain evidence regarding the benefits for emotional control, capacity for concentration and work productivity.

The link between rest and health, through the regulation of biological cycles and important neurophysical needs is fully proven, and the Spanish Society for Sleep includes the siesta as an important factor for consideration.

But what sort of siesta does it have to be to get the most benefit? We'll look at 3 aspects: when, how long, and where:

  1. When to take a siesta: most studies indicate that the best time is after lunch, when we've been awake for around 8 hours and it coincides with the after-lunch drowsiness that results from the drop in our body temperature.
  2. How long should the siesta be: the scientific community is practically unanimous in recommending short siestas of no more than 30 minutes. This is because any longer would plunge us into deep sleep and interrupting this stage is bad for most people (irritability, tiredness, difficulty in concentrating). Actually, although a siesta of under 30 minutes is ideal, it's better to have a 90 or 120 minute one than something in between (30 to 90 minutes), which is when the adverse effects are most severe. However, the problem with such long siestas (of up to 2 hours) is that it makes it more difficult for us to fall asleep at night, and upsets our circadian rhythms.
  3. Where to take a siesta: we need to find a quiet place, not too bright and where we can get comfortable. But remember you're only taking half an hour, so you don't need absolute silence (relaxing music at a moderate volume can help), or absolute darkness (soft lighting is best - avoid direct, cold light). As for posture, you don't have to lie down - just lean back without straining your neck or back. It's a good idea to wrap up well because your body temperature will decrease during your siesta.  

The siesta at work

What was until recently the subject of ridicule or scorn ("we didn't come here to take a nap") is starting to be seen differently. Many firms are experimenting with setting areas and time aside for their staff to take 20 minutes to relax and sleep during working hours.

Google and Facebook are among the first to do this, declaring themselves defenders of the power of the siesta to reduce stress and aid creativity. You don't have to go far: the Facebook offices in Madrid have a sound-proofed siesta room. Other firms that advocate the virtues of the siesta during working hours are Procter & Gamble, Cisco, Zappos, Uber and the Huffington Post.

A separate case is that of Japan, where on average the population sleeps much less than in the rest of the world. The average Japanese gets less than 6 and a half hours sleep at night - which is why they are used to having a restorative sleep during the day. It has long been common for Japanese companies to provide siesta spaces and times for all their employees. 

"The most efficient siesta is less than 30 minutes, taken after lunch, reclining rather than lying down."
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