Sleep Experts Call for Siestas

ByABC News
October 30, 2001, 12:26 PM

N E W   Y O R K, Oct. 31 -- Imagine a long leisurely lunch with a nap instead of a cold sandwich in front of your computer.

"It makes absolute sense," said Dr. James Parish, medical director for the Sleep Disorder Center of the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz. "Sleep research has recently and repeatedly shown us what we have known for a long time and that is that sleep deprivation is an epidemic in this country."

A new global Internet survey by the U.K.-based Sleep Council, a non-profit organization that advocates more sleep, calls for implementation of the siesta. The survey, released Sunday, asked peoplewhen they felt most alert and productive. Of 12,000 respondents, mostly from the United States and Europe, 41 percent said in the morning, while 38 percent said they hit felt most alert in the evening.

"The implication is that the majority are not fully alert in the middle of the day the traditional time for a siesta in hot countries," sleep expert Chris Idzikowski, a professor at Surrey University who conducted the two-year sleep study, told Reuters.

A Sleep Deprived Nation

Sleep deprivation usually manifests itself in feeling especially drained in the afternoon, say sleep experts. It's the time of day when serotonin and dopamine levels, which regulate mood, sleep and emotion, naturally dip. And if you are already sleepy, this dip is even more dramatic.

"This feeling of drowsiness is sometimes associated with the mid-day meal," said Dr. Michael Smolensky, author of The Body Clock Guide to Better Health and professor of environmental physiology at the University of Texas School of Public Health in Houston. "But it really has a lot more to do with natural changes in the brain at this time in the afternoon. The body clock naturally governs itself and it includes this natural dip in the afternoon."

Many European countries and others with hot climates have long implemented an afternoon down time, or siesta, when stores close, business shut down and residents go home for a nap, or take a long rest at a cafe or restaurant.