The tradition of the siesta in some countries and cultures has posed a question for a long time: is taking a siesta on a regular basis good for you?
Determining this type of thing is tough. It has long been known that people in these countries generally have lower rates of fatal heart disease than in siesta-less countries, but nobody ever knew if there was a cause and effect relationship. Maybe other factors such as diet were responsible for fewer heart attacks. A study conducted by epidemiologists at the University of Athens in 2007 attempted to find out. Using data from over 23,000 people and sophisticated statistical techniques, they found that siestas were correlated with lower rates in fatal heart attacks, especially in working men.
Meanwhile, a study conducted at Hadassah University Hospital in Israel in 2005 looked at a sample of 455 70-year olds and found that those who practiced siestas had a higher death rate.
An earlier (2003) Israeli study found that long siestas (over 2 hours) were correlated with increased mortality among men, but that shorter naps and siestas for women had no major correlation with mortality. And siestas appeared to be worse among men with chronic health problems.
A 2000 study by Harvard Medical School researchers of people in Costa Rica found that daily sieastas in fact increased the effect of heart attacks.
So the evidence is conflicting. Researchers tend to agree that resting in the afternoon without sleeping does not pose any health risk and is often very beneficial.
"The beginning of health is sleep." - Irish Proverb
According to The Economist, the Spanish government recently launched
a campaign to eliminate the tradition of siestas. Spaniards reportedly
sleep an average of 40 minutes less per night than other Europeans
and have the highest rate of workplace accidents in the European Union..