A Practical Guide to Napping: How a Spanish-style Siesta Can Power Up Your Days and Nights

Ever wish you could get more done in a day? Do you long for the energy to sail through afternoon meetings, then go out dancing at night — or at least stay awake through an entire movie? If you’re struggling to keep up the pace, try something that’s helped many highly successful people: take a nap.

The Siesta cover pin

Yes, You Can (gasp!) Sleep During the Workday

The Spanish have been enjoying afternoon siestas since time immemorial; when I moved to Seville, I soon learned it’s the only practical response to the crushing midday heat, especially in high summer. But when I mention my daily siesta to American friends, they seem to think I’ve joined the ranks of hopeless slackers. Not true! Lots of movers and shakers, from Napoleon to Winston Churchill to Margaret Thatcher, have been devoted nappers.

Celebrity Nappers:

Napoleon Bonaparte
Johannes Brahms
Charlemagne
Bill Clinton
Winston Churchill
Leonardo Da Vinci
Salvador Dali
Thomas Edison
Albert Einstein
Stonewall Jackson
Lyndon B. Johnson
John F. Kennedy
John D. Rockefeller
Eleanor Roosevelt
Margaret Thatcher

Seville cabby shows how to sneak in a siesta at work.

How to Sneak in a Siesta

Churchill said, “You must sleep some time between lunch and dinner, and no half-way measures. Take off your clothes and get into bed. That’s what I always do.”

Well, that’s fine if you’re running a country and have your own private bedchamber in the Cabinet War Rooms. But most of us have to sneak in a siesta in a busy home or workplace, surrounded by the daily hubbub.

These suggestions may help:

Set aside 30 minutes; set an alarm to wake you.
Turn off your phone.
Take off your shoes. Loosen tight clothing or belts.
Stretch out on a couch or make yourself comfortable in a padded chair.
Wrap up in a blanket or coat to stay warm (body temps drop during sleep).
Read something light (no work stuff!) for a few minutes as a transition.
When you’re ready, take off your glasses and turn off the lights or put on an eye mask.
Close your eyes. Don’t worry about sleeping, just rest…

Power nap/siesta gives you feeling of 14 mornings/week.

Fourteen Mornings a Week

After ten to thirty minutes of napping, you’re likely to wake up with enhanced performance, alertness, memory, and response time, according to studies by major universities and NASA. If you’re suffering from burnout or information overload (And who isn’t, at least occasionally?) you’ll find significant improvement there, too. The long-term benefits include 34% less risk of heart attack. Siestas can do you some serious good!

Many people find that sleeping an hour or longer can leave them groggy, but a short, Spanish-style siesta seems to revitalize just about everyone. After mine, I get up rested, refreshed, and ready to take on the day, all over again. To me, it’s like having 14 mornings a week.

Siesta/nap helps Spanish enjoy late night revels.

Late-night Action

When I moved to Spain, I was aghast to learn that even a casual night out begins at nine or ten and often lasts until two in the morning. Siestas saved my social life: I now stay up until all hours and enjoy myself without the longing for sleep dragging at me every minute.

Even if late-night outings aren’t on your agenda, you may find a nap leaves you with more energy for cooking dinner, coping with the kids’ homework, and relaxing with your partner. There’s a popular myth that daytime snoozing will inhibit your nightly slumber, but I’ve found the opposite is true: a good siesta usually leads to a longer, deeper, more refreshing night’s sleep.

But that’s me. Try it for yourself, and see what a siesta does for you. Sweet dreams!

Photo Credits: Wikimedia, Wikimedia, Karen McCann, Karen McCann, Christine Ogilvy

A Practical Guide to Napping: How a Spanish-style Siesta Can Power Up Your Days and Nights