Tuesday, April 20, 2010

sleep glorious sleep

I love to sleep.

When I was young (during the Peloponnesian Wars), I despised sleep.  It seemed like a waste of time to me.  When there was life to live, my motto was: There will be plenty of time to sleep in the grave.

Now that the grave draws nearer, I am beginning to change my mind.

Maybe it was retirement.  Or Mexico.

"Nap" has always been burdened with the baggage of slumbering babes or drooling seniors.

But "siesta" ushers us into a world of humid afternoons cooled by fans and wooden window shutters.  A place where the musical laughter of women can be recalled in repose.

Maybe I am just trying to justify the fact that during the past year I have slept away hours of my life.  And, now, with my broken ankle, I just sleep.  And sleep.  And sleep.

As it so often does, The Economist has come to my rescue. 

It turns out I am not wasting my life through sleep.  I am fighting off heart disease and improving my memory.

The first claim has long been known.  Siestas have a direct relationship with reducing deaths from heart disease.

But the memory claim is new.  A study out of UC Berkeley has established that an afternoon siesta of 90 to 100 minutes allows the brain to process the information it has gained during the early part of the day while resetting the mind to learn new information during the rest of the day. 

That type of rest can be as beneficial for the brain as a full night's sleep.

It also helps to explain why my young friends in Mexico City can party until the wee hours of the morning and still be up to get to work in the morning.  They recharge with their siestas.

I can hear those doubting Thomases and Tinas among you, saying: "I can't nap.  I get up feeling tired."

The study addresses that, as well.  The effect is called "sleep inertia."  It is caused when the brain wakes prematurely from a deep sleep.

But why does that happen?  Simple.  Lack of practice.  The condition arises frequently in people who are not siesta veterans.

So, there you have it.  The perfect excuse to take a regular snooze in the afternoon.

And if your boss finds you slumped in your chair after lunch enjoying the virtues of a siesta, tell her you are improving your memory -- and avoiding a heart attack for good measure.

Excuse me now while I go off to practice a bit of healthy living.


Anonymous said...

i love naps. glad you have acquired the ability to do the same. as you said, some people just can't seem to nap. i do often wake up grumpy if i take a long one though. i see that i was correct in my assumption that it had to do with waking up from a deep sleep.

have a great day!


1st Mate said...

Thanks for that, I used to feel so guilty about those after-lunch naps. The Capt and I usually find a post-siesta cup of tea gets us moving again. I especially like what they said about 90-100 minutes! Wow, I thought an hour was over-indulgent. I feel for all those folks at desk jobs with no place to lie down. Just imagine a workplace with a nap room, a SILENCE sign on the door. Now that would be progress!

Calypso said...


Oh Yes!

Tancho said...

First greasy cheeseburgers and fries, then naps, all the hardwork of good and healthy food and habits?
I know you will not succumb to the decadent lifestyle!
Every time I return North I cringe at the difference in lifestyles....

Laurie said...

Ah sleep, perchance to dream! Both of my grandfathers favored naps in the humid southern bayou country. One was so well-known for his regular naps that he was known better for his nickname, "Noon," his preferred hour of sleep, than his given name, Yves.
Sleep on!

Theresa in Mèrida said...

Husband naps, I surf while he snores...what is the title of the painting that you used to illustrate the post? I really like it, it looks familiar but I can't really place it.

Linda Lou and Senor, Too said...

Love my naps. hope you heal quickly, alot of naps will surely help. LL

Steve Cotton said...

Teresa -- Unfortunately, I am entering a napless world.

1st Mate -- I dumped guilt years ago. Hedonism rules!

Calypso -- I see you, and raise you a ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ.

Tancho -- Well, at least, the siesta habit is a healthy import.

Laurie -- Maybe that is why I am called a two-dwarf morning -- Grouchy and Sleepy.

Theresa -- The painting is "The Siestsa" by Frederick Arthur Bridgman.

Linda Lou -- My ankle has always looked forward to siestas, even pre-injury.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the benefits of the Siesta.

When I go to bed at night, I may sleep for as much as an hour before the circulation quits in my hands and arms. Then, I need to get up and dangle my arms for half an hour until the circulation comes back. I return to bed only to get up again in just a few minutes. This goes on all night until I give up and get up for the day. When noon comes, I head for the recliner and enjoy an hour siesta. Then I can face the rest of the day.


Steve Cotton said...

Mom --

Good news on the nap. But let's talk about those nights.

Don Cuevas said...

I must have naps, due to my long engrained baker's habit of arising in the early morning hours. It's when I do my best work, that is, after a mug or two of strong Chiapas coffee.

In my real experience, bakers arrived at work sometime between 2 and 3 a.m. There's a certain special feeling of belonging to an exclusive club.

Siestas are a must. Our usual siesta time is after la comda, at about 3:30 until 5:00 or so.

When I arise from those naps, no one should engage me in any meaningful conversation until my brain has returned to normal velocity. I just can't process anything that requires more than a grunted response. The amygdala rules.
Think of Steve's crocodle post, above.

Don Cuevas

Anonymous said...

LOL.... very funny post.

Wish I could take a siesta sometimes. Sadly, people who work in glass offices should neither throw things nor nap.

At least not if they wish to remain employed.


Kim G
Boston, MA
Where puritanical mores continue to rule

Steve Cotton said...

Don Cuevas -- Nice to find a fellow believer.

Kim -- Unless the employer is very progressive.