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Monday, July 18, 2011

Would you like to have "Siesta"

SIESTA (Spanish Initiative for Electronic Simulations with Thousands of Atoms) is an original method and a software implementation for performing electronic structure calculations and ab initio molecular dynamics simulations of molecules and solids. It uses a density functional theory code that predicts the physical properties of a collection of atoms.

It is not Spanish but Greek and Latin and certainly not our cup of tea !!

A recent study conducted in 2009 has revealed that the in the  rest of Europe only 0.1 percent of the population is over 90 years old, in Ikaria the figure is tenfold, 1.1 percent.  In the tiny Aegean island of Ikaria people live longer due to health diet, genetics and Siesta !.
Siesta - the one which all of us, especially Office goers would love is  the short nap taken early afternoon, often after a satisfying meal in the noon.  In villages in Tamilnadu, there would be the open sided roofed portion on the front of the house called ‘thinnai’ where people would dose after having a good satisfactory meal – this is considered a great relief especially when the weather is warm…..  there are some dishes like pongal which would make you drowse in the afternoon, especially if you are attending a lecture !!

Siesta is also a ‘Spanish’ word  from the Latin hora sexta – "the sixth hour" (counting from dawn, therefore noon, hence "midday rest”.  It is the  traditional daytime sleep of Spain, and through Spanish influence, of many Latin American countries. Factors explaining the geographical distribution of the modern siesta are mainly high temperatures and heavy intake of food at the midday main meal.   In many parts people are habituated to have the full largest meal of the day in the afternoon.   

Those who advocate try to take science by their side stating that a siesta takes place when the sun is at its highest point. This is when the sun's ultraviolet radiation is at its peak at midday. Prolonged exposure to ultraviolet radiation may result in sunburn, especially if one has fair skin. Recurring overexposure to ultraviolet radiation can cause some forms of skin cancer. The sun's infrared radiation causes high air temperatures from the midday onwards, the highest temperatures taking place in the early afternoon. High temperatures can cause fatigue or in more serious cases heat exhaustion or hyperthermia (sunstroke).

The original concept of a siesta seems to have been merely that of a midday break intended to allow people to spend time with their friends and family. It has been suggested that the long length of the modern siesta dates back to the Spanish Civil War, when poverty resulted in many Spaniards working multiple jobs at irregular hours, pushing back meals to later in the afternoon and evening.

There is news that German unions have given a clarion  call for healthy lunchtime siestas – the DGB confederation of trade unions  has cited benefits for workers as trend grows in Germany to re-establish midday napping tradition.  The Union argues that  a short, lunchtime power nap makes sense for health and performance reasons; and claims that a short afternoon nap reduces the risk of  heart attack.  There are reports that  there is sound backing for this.  Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health and the University of Athens Medical School in Greece found that Greek workers who took regular siestas had 37% lower mortality rates from coronary illnesses than their napless counterparts.  The idea has caught on in Germany, where big German companies such as BASF, Opel, Hornsbach and Lufthansa provide special rooms for their workers, and employers say they benefit from the increased productivity of well-rested employees.

Germans used to take siestas up until the industrial revolution. But the labour needs of the manufacturing economies caused the custom to die out in much of northern Europe.  
The timing of sleep in humans depends upon a balance between homeostatic sleep propensity, the need for sleep as a function of the amount of time elapsed since the last adequate sleep episode, and circadian rhythms which determine the ideal timing of a correctly structured and restorative sleep episode.  Thus, in many people, there is a dip when the drive for sleep has been building for hours and the drive for wakefulness has not yet started. In some individuals, "postprandial dip", a brief drop in blood glucose levels caused by the body's normal insulin response to a heavy meal, may produce drowsiness after the meal that can encourage a nap. However, the appearance of the dip is primarily circadian as it occurs also in the absence of the meal.

It is stated that the concept is siesta is found in Serbia and Slovenia also. Some Japanese offices have special rooms known as napping rooms for their workers to take a nap during lunch break or after overtime work. 

While it would ever be too tempting to have that short nap in the afternoon,  it highly unlikely that your Bosses in the Organisation approve of this yet……………

Regards – S. Sampathkumar.  

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