The Pros and Cons of the Siesta: Systemized Sleeping on a Schedule

With its origins rooted in ancient Rome, Siesta is a system by which workers are able to take a quick power nap in preparation for more work completed with higher quality. However, the implementation of this practice is a matter of debate, as employers and employees disagree on its adverse effects.


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The streets of Italy are often close to empty during the afternoon, as many people are taking their siesta, known as ‘il riposto’ in Italy. There is a broad spectrum of opinions regarding the benefits of siesta. Employers hesitate since they fear some employees taking advantage of the designated time, whereas others desperately need this napping session in order to help them push through the tough workday. “I think that it’s important to weigh both sides and see the benefits which a siesta can yield, as well as its adverse consequences in a specific office,” said Adam Kamenetz ’23, when asked about the pros and cons of implementing siesta.

You eat a chicken sandwich for lunch to help you get through the day. Suddenly, your eyes start fluttering and your head droops downwards.

The next thing you know, you wake up to a din in the office realizing that you were just asleep: this is called post-meal drowsiness. It happens to all of us, and it’s not a coincidence!

This process is known as postprandial somnolence. The consumption of food causes more energy to be used for digestion. In turn, less blood flows to the brain, resulting in feelings of fatigue and enervation.

This means that when feeling drowsy after eating any meal, including breakfast, fatigue is severely increased, due to the lack of energy flowing to specific parts of the body, and alertness is, as a consequence, reduced. 

It’s in our biology, and people from different periods of history have all experienced this very phenomenon. 

One way to counter this phenomenon is a power nap in the middle of the day. Sleeping when the body insists is very beneficial for an individual’s habits and productivity. 

This is precisely the reason why the Ancient Romans employed the practice of siesta. Coming from Latin origins, the word “siesta” breaks down into the phrase “sixth hour” or “midday,” indicating the time after their midday lunch. 

The Ancient Romans experienced the same phenomena of dozing off during this so-called sixth hour. Having consumed at least two meals and also working for around four hours, they felt the need to sleep before engaging in arduous labor for a few more hours. 

Thus, the siesta was born.

The Ancient Romans highly regarded this practice as an absolute necessity. As a result, nearly all Roman citizens had some degree of inclusion in this practice. Manual laborers were allowed to return to their home and eat lunch with their wife and children; the children also received a brief window of time to return home to their families; aristocrats also ate extravagantly during this period. Hence, the streets of Ancient Rome were empty on a typical midday.  

However, as we all know, siesta is absent from our modern day school or work schedules. This is because the implementation of the practice has much debate surrounding it: does it increase productivity, or would it be better to abolish the practice in order to become more productive?

Despite the United States’ noninvolvement, countries such as Spain, Greece, and Nigeria continue to practice siesta in workplaces. This is largely due to the fact that warmer climates contribute to increased feelings of drowsiness, especially after their citizens’ lunchtime.

In these countries, workers are usually allowed to enter into a specially designated, air-conditioned room after their midday lunch. They can remain there for up to 30 minutes, in order to rest. 

“I think that it would increase productivity, because since people know that they’ll get a break after a certain amount of working time, they’ll be more motivated to complete the job more efficiently. Otherwise, people tend to be less productive during work, because they know that they’ll be stuck there anyways. Having a break motivates workers to complete tasks at a faster pace,” said Kadas Tsoi ’23. 

The outcomes of this practice are mostly beneficial as the workers report increased alertness, productivity, and actual willingness to do more work. 

“Also, they will be in a better mood, which would benefit their interactions with peers. This would be the most beneficial to those who don’t get enough sleep during the day prior,” said Emily Chen ’25.

Other countries, like Japan, have their own practices that confront the drowsiness that results from the necessary afternoon meal. The Japanese term Inemuri refers to when when workers try to nap at any given moment after their primary responsibilities and their goals are completed for the day. This is because they worked themselves to the point of exhaustion, which is highly regarded, in the culture of Japan.

However, recent studies have revealed that the practice of siesta and the overall benefits of napping are more complicated than they seem. The effects of napping depends on the circumstances, a person’s health status, as well as their underlying medical conditions.

People who are healthy will have no issue with napping — rather, it will benefit them. On the other hand, individuals who are generally unhealthy, overweight, or have underlying medical conditions are advised by experts to not nap as long. This is because too much pressure can be put on the cardiovascular system, resulting in the system’s overworking that places a lot of strain on the individual. This complicates the implementation of siesta, because some individuals will benefit from the practice, while others’ health would be hindered from the same practice.

Therefore, it is difficult to make a compelling case for either side of the argument regarding an offices’ involvement in allowing siesta. Regardless, it continues to be an ever-trending topic and one that can revolutionize the work scene forever. However, before that, more scientific research needs to be completed, in terms of the adverse effect of napping, and whether or not the pros outweigh the cons.

I think that it’s important to weigh both sides and see the benefits which siesta can yield as well as its adverse consequences in a specific office,” said Adam Kamenetz ’23.