The Secret Of The Siesta

The siesta is a Spanish institution, which sadly is beginning to die out. It originally came about as a way for workers to get out of the sun during the hottest part of the day – long before air conditioning was widespread. The idea was to split the working day into a morning session, have a big lunch and a siesta, and then work later into the cool evening before enjoying a light supper prior to heading to bed.

So what’s the secret to making it work?

The mistake many people make when trying out a siesta is to actually go to bed for a couple of hours. That  just confuses the body’s sleep rhythms and you’ll end up all over the place. The best regenerative sleep actually occurs during a 20 to 30 minute nap. Many famous world leaders, including Winston Churchill, have been “nappers.” Even search engine giant Google recognises this, and puts “Nap rooms” into many of its offices.

Based on this, and after years of trial and error, I’ve come up with the perfect siesta recipe!

  • Break for lunch at around 1PM
  • Have a decent, but not a huge lunch, and even enjoy a glass of wine or beer with it, unless you are planning to drive later in the day
  • Head for the couch with your current book and read a few chapters for half an hour as your food goes down
  • Put some music or radio on (The Archers Omnibus works best for me!)
  • Set a countdown timer on your phone for 30 minutes
  • Recline and close your eyes

Don’t try too hard to sleep. On some days, you’ll just lie there and let your mind wander. That’s fine, with your eyes shut and your body relaxed, you’re getting more than 50% of the benefit of sleep. Over time, you body will get used to the routine, and you’ll drift off quickly.

  • When the timer goes off, get up and get moving, whether you’ve been to sleep or not
  • Make a coffee or tea to drink while you become more fully alert
  • Get back to work, or whatever you were doing before you took your break

This routine uses up two hours – the original siesta was often for 3 or even 4 hours, but that was to allow time to get to and from work.

So there you have it! My perfect siesta recipe! Do you have your own recipe?

PS: I know you have a burning question: Do I do this every day? Sadly not! Too often work takes over and lunch is a grabbed sandwich. But when I can, I do it, and I always come back to work fully refreshed and ready for more!

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