It’s 35 degrees outside. You’ve got all the windows open and you’re lying there, naked on the bed while your limbs, which are glistening in tiny hell beads, melt even further into the sheets. This is how I’m going to die, you think to yourself, flopped there pointlessly like a tomato in a greenhouse. And so be it. Please, take me God.
But God does not take you. What happens next is somehow worse. You drag your boiling hot laptop towards your boiling hot body and start replying to emails. “Sounds great!” you type perkily, your fingers heavy with the effort. Afterwards you have to put a t-shirt on (nothing below) to “hop on” a “Zoom ideas meeting”, in which your face just stares back at you blankly through the camera lens like a pile of damp old meat rotting in the sun.
I’m sorry but this isn’t how we should be living. I don’t just mean the heat (heatwaves happen, and we’ve made our climate change bed so now we have to lie in it). I mean carrying on as normal, as if we’re not being roasted alive. Here in the UK, springs and summers are starting to resemble that of Mediterranean countries. The only difference is that those countries actually act like the heat is happening. They have air con and, crucially, close everything between 2 and 5 PM. What I mean to say is: We need to bring siestas to the UK. We too should be resting.
Siesta, meaning “nap” in Spanish, is a tradition with its roots in Spain, although other countries across the Mediterranean and Southern Europe, as well as many Latin American countries, have been known to adopt it. The idea is that shops and restaurants etc close in the early to late afternoon, giving people the time and space to nap off their post-lunch drowsiness and stay inside, rather than work during the unbearable afternoon heat.
These days, the Spanish siesta is largely a stereotype based on earlier eras (according to the BBC, 60 percent of people in Spain don’t have a siesta, with only 18 percent having an afternoon nap). But still, 18 percent? That’s a lot of people having naps. And it makes sense. Between the hours of 2 and 5PM in this heat, my brain is fuzzy, unable to process anything, my body telling me to please, just lay down for fuck’s sake. I don’t need to sleep necessarily, just close my eyes. It shouldn’t be a big deal to “not work” when you don’t feel physically up to it.
Besides, naps are good for you. Last year, The Times reported that afternoon naps were linked to a healthy heart. Studies have also found that short naps can boost memory recall and increase alertness. Increased sleep in general is nearly always a good thing – lack of it has been linked to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, memory loss, anxiety and depression. So why are we ploughing on like this? Going against our body’s fundamental need for rest – in this heat – just to fill out a spreadsheet for someone called Sue?
I get that naps aren’t possible for everyone. Maybe you work two hours away from home or maybe the physical nature of your job requires you to work on the clock. I’m also not suggesting you lose out on money by leaving work early or whatever. I’m saying that siestas need to become normalised in the UK, so that everyone can rest if they want to. And we get paid for it. Because it’s too hot, and resting is good for us and there’s nothing wrong with saying “Fuck this, let me sleep!”