Sleep Deprivation in the Home of the Siesta Many people think of Spain as the land of the siesta -- the afternoon nap that virtually shuts down some Spanish cities at midday. But a new study suggests many Spaniards are actually sleep deprived.
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Sleep Deprivation in the Home of the Siesta

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Sleep Deprivation in the Home of the Siesta

Sleep Deprivation in the Home of the Siesta

Sleep Deprivation in the Home of the Siesta

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Many people think of Spain as the land of the siesta — the afternoon nap that virtually shuts down some Spanish cities at midday. But a new study suggests many Spaniards are actually sleep deprived.

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

This is DAY TO DAY from NPR News. I'm Alex Chadwick.

In Spain, the siesta, a traditional midday break that splits up the workday, is envied by exhausted workers all over the world. But in reality, many Spaniards are actually some of the most sleep-deprived people in Europe, with the siesta becoming more and more obsolete. Jerome Socolovsky reports from Madrid.

JEROME SOCOLOVSKY reporting:

It's after 9 PM in the Madrid suburb of Villaflores de la Sierra, and the plaza is full of children.

(Soundbite of plaza activity)

SOCOLOVSKY: The night has just begun. Anna Veya(ph), her husband David and her four-year-old daughter Claudia(ph) have just met up with another mother with an infant.

Ms. ANNA VEYA (Spanish Mother): (Spanish spoken)

SOCOLOVSKY: `Now is when people start going out in Spain,' Anna says. `We're going to have a beer now and then dinner.' Like most Spaniards, Anna and David see no problem with staying out late, even on weekdays. In fact, they don't have much choice. Most Spanish restaurants won't serve you before 9 PM. Such a lifestyle was easier to handle when people slept the siesta, but these days few workers can get back to their homes for a snooze, even though shops and offices still close in the afternoons. So there are increasing calls to abolish the siesta. One of the worst-affected groups is working women.

Ms. VERONICA KLINEBORD(ph): (Singing in Spanish)

SOCOLOVSKY: It's 10:30 PM, and Veronica Klinebord and her husband Rafa(ph) are trying to put two-year-old Marlena(ph) to bed.

(Soundbite of child crying out)

SOCOLOVSKY: But Marlena is being difficult. Her mother says she wants to stay up longer because she sees so little of her parents. Klinebord says she was fired from her previous job when she asked for a shorter workday. Now she's taken a lower-level position that has a one-hour lunch break and is supposed to finish at 6 PM. Even so, she says she rarely arrives home before 7 or 8 PM and she feels guilty being apart from Marlena for so much of the day.

Ms. KLINEBORD: (Through Translator) It's not easy. It's not easy. I'm doing the best I can, but I cannot tell you it's something that sits well with me.

SOCOLOVSKY: Ignacio Buqueras y Bach is director of Fundacion Independiente, a civil society think tank. It's launched a campaign against the siesta.

Mr. IGNACIO BUQUERAS Y BACH (Fundacion Independiente): (Through Translator) This complete halt of two to three hours in the afternoon means that while in the rest of Europe the normal workday is ending at 5 or 6, in Spain it stretches until 8 or 9 PM and sometimes even later.

SOCOLOVSKY: The anti-siesta campaign has won the backing of several banks and multinational companies in Spain. Buqueras says Spain has one of the lowest rates of productivity and one of the highest rates of work-related accidents in Europe. He says that's because the average Spaniard sleeps one hour less than other Europeans, and a workday stretched to include the siesta leaves little time for anything else.

Mr. BACH: (Through Translator) As a result, the Spaniard is in a state of continual stress, arriving late, unable to get things done, and that has to be changed.

SOCOLOVSKY: Those who want Spaniards to live more like northern Europeans have new reason to be optimistic. Labor Minister Jorde Sivisia(ph) told a Spanish newspaper that if Germans, Britons and Americans can go home at 5 or 6 then Spaniards should, too. But that's easier said than done in a country where prime-time TV ends at 1 AM and a children's show says it's time to say good night at 9 PM.

(Soundbite of television show)

Unidentified Child: (Singing in Spanish)

SOCOLOVSKY: For NPR News, I'm Jerome Socolovsky in Madrid.

(Soundbite of television show)

Unidentified Child: (Singing in Spanish)

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