The amount of pressure that many UK workers are under regularly exceeds their ability to cope and can lead to conditions such as depression, anxiety and heart disease amongst others. According to the HR Director, a recent report by the Office for National Statistics showed that around 12.5 million working days were lost to work-related stress, anxiety and depression in 2016/17 – this was up from 11.7 million the previous year. As a nation we need to strive to improve the health and wellbeing of our workers.
Should we follow in the footsteps of many countries in the world such as Spain, China, India, Greece and Italy to name a few? What am I talking about?… The siesta or “powernap”. Most people have heard of the Spanish “siesta” which is a deeply ingrained tradition where businesses close down for 2 hours to allow workers to have their siesta.
Most people don’t sleep for the full 2 hours – a long, relaxed lunch is usually included in the 2 hours. In Italy they call it a “riposo” and even China have got into the act of allowing workers a 30 minute nap at their desks at lunch time based on the fact that it is good for productivity. Who could benefit from a lunchtime nap? Stressed out office workers, shift workers, NHS staff, drivers, machine operators…..the list is endless!
There are many benefits to undertaking a daily nap after lunch so why are employers in the UK not encouraging their workers to take part in this health-boosting Spanish tradition?
What are the benefits of a lunchtime nap?
- It could save your life – according to researchers in Greece, a short lunchtime nap can lower your blood pressure.
- It keeps you focussed and helps improve learning and memory
- It helps you feel more refreshed
- It boosts productivity
- It improves your mood
- It reduces stress – a recent article in The Telegraph explained that Spanish scientists believe they can prove that a siesta is good for you. Scientists from SEMERGEN say that a 15-30 minute nap after lunch can reduce stress, improve cardiovascular function and improve alertness and memory. A nap should be taken in a comfortable armchair or sofa but not in a bed because you are more likely to fall into a deep sleep.
- It can increase alertness – A study at NASA on sleepy military pilots and astronauts found that a 40-minute nap improved performance by 34 per cent and alertness 100 per cent, the NSF reports.
If introducing an afternoon nap seems a step too far then employers could benefit from reading the Sleep Council’s Sleep Deprivation Toolkit.
We can encourage better sleep for workers to improve their health and wellbeing but another way of increasing brain capacity, improving memory and staving off dementia and Alzheimer’s is to learn a language.