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Siestas – Should Australians ‘Do As The Romans Do’?

  • December 3rd, 2008
  • Posted by Amelia Birnie

It’s 1pm. The sun has passed the point of no return, you’ve just finished an enormous lunch and you’re indulging in a little nap on your desk.

Sound good, albeit unlikely?

While European-style, afternoon siestas may not fit perfectly into our busy lifestyles, medical research has outlined the innumerable health benefits associated with afternoon naps.

In the largest study to date on the health effects of napping, researchers from the University of Athens Medical School found that siestas are a significant contributor to the relatively low rates of heart disease in several European countries.

The study tracked 23,681 healthy Greek adults over a six year period.

They found those who napped for about half an hour at least three times weekly had a 37 percent lower risk of dying from heart attacks or other heart problems than those who did not nap.

Senior researcher Dr Dimitrios Trichopoulos said naps might benefit the heart by reducing stress from sources such as the workplace.

“My advice is if you can (nap), do it.” Dr Trichopoulos told EU Australia. “If you have a sofa in your office, if you can relax, do it.”


With the arrival of the summer holidays, Australians are spending more time outside in the sun, putting them at greater risk of developing life-threatening skin cancer.

Australia has the highest reported incidence rate of skin cancer, which stands at more than double the highest rates recorded in Europe, according to the European Institute of Oncology.

Australian Medical Association Vice-President Dr Choong-Siew Yong recommends that Australians take advantage of their extra free-time these holidays and indulge in a midday snooze to stay out of the sun.

“The tradition of the midday siesta is a great way to rest up when the weather is too hot to be outside,” Dr Yong said.


Dr Trichopoulos from the University of Athens Medical School also noted that siestas are becoming less common around the world as globalization spreads the Western workaholic lifestyle.

“If you visit many countries, during the middle of the day everything stops,” Dr Trichopoulos told EU Australia Online. “People have an opportunity to have a large meal and take a nap.”

“With globalization, this is out. After this research on the benefits of naps, people may think again before introducing the continuous, relentless activity that’s happening with globalization.”

Australian tourist Lisbeth Lauridsen, 19, who recently spent seven months living in Europe, enjoyed a regular afternoon snooze, but also commented on the drawbacks of siestas.

“I did like a good old siesta; in Italy a midday nap was almost a health requirement,” Miss Lauridsen told EU Australia Online.

“I must say I miss them a little, although it was incredibly annoying if you wanted anything done between 1 and 4pm.”


European Institute of Oncology, Advisory Group Report on Prevention and Control of Melanoma 12.06.08

Australian Medical Association, Australian Skin Cancer Report, 14.10.08

Washington Post, Study: Napping Might Help Heart, 02.07.08

University of Athens Medical School, Health Benefits of Napping Study, 13.05.08