It is drilled into our psyche that we must have eight hours of sleep every night in order to be healthy. It has been wired into our DNA that 8 hours of sleep are necessary to allow our body to rest, heal, and to be mentally alert the next day. But do we really need 8 hours of sleep? Let’s look at the rest of the worl. Millions of Chinese workers will out their heads on their desk for a nap of an hour after lunch. Daytime napping is come from India to Spain, which is referred to as a siesta.
Research studies show it is common to wake up a little after midnight, lie awake for up to an hour or two, and then drift back to sleep again. It is thought that this segmented sleep or split sleep schedule, may be the most natural or normal way for us to sleep. Often the subjects of the research reported the split sleep schedule gave them a chance for deep thinking such as self-reflection, getting on jump on the next day or even amorous activity.
People who believe they need more sleep and believe that interrupted sleep is a problem and develop sleep anxiety and will often seek sleeping pills or sleep aids from their doctors. If we lie in bed thinking about the sleep we are not getting, we lose the chances of enjoying a peaceful night’s rest.
Other studies have demonstrated that any deep sleep-whether at night or in 30 minute afternoon nap-primes our brains to function at a higher level, letting you awaken with better ideas, find solutions to life’s problems more quickly, and recall information more accurately. Thomas Edison, perhaps one of the brightest minds of the 20th Century was famous for his afternoon naps.
Sleep researchers have now come to conclusion that continuous sleep is not essential for high level job performance. As a result there is now greater acceptance for napping and other alternate daily schedules. Long haul airline pilots are permitted to sleep during these lengthy flights and have been shown to perform better maneuvering the aircraft through the critical take off and landing of the airplane.
The mega Internet company, Google, allows employees to nap at work as they believe napping may improve productivity. Doctors in training are prohibited to work more than 70 hours a week to avoid fatigue and errors when they are sleep deprived.
Bottom Line: Perhaps the day will come that the Spanish siesta will become a part of our culture and we will put aside the dictum of getting 8 hours of shuteye a night.
This article was inspired by an article appearing in the New York Times, September 23, 2012.