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Last Updated: Sunday, 19 December 2004, 09:33 GMT
Spanish siesta, adios?
By Katya Adler
BBC News, Madrid

Sleeping man (generic)
A short siesta is said to help increase productivity
For centuries in Spain, heading home mid-afternoon for lunch and a snooze was regarded as something of a national right.

Long days at work and late nights with friends have always been common here.

Spaniards used to take a siesta to make it all more manageable.

But the country's corporate culture now spurns the idea of daytime dozing as being unproductive, and the siesta is fast becoming an endangered institution.

Spain is fast becoming a nation of sleep deprivation.

Studies show we sleep about one hour less every day than the average European
Fernando Buqueras y Bach
Independent Association
Globalisation in the workplace and the rising number of multinational companies in Spain means businessmen cannot afford to disappear from their desk for hours.

So, according to a Spanish citizens' advice group, Spain's office hours should end earlier to compensate.

"Few Spaniards take a siesta these days and studies show we sleep about one hour less every day than the average European," says Fernando Buqueras y Bach, Director of the Independent Association.

That is dangerous, he adds. Spaniards have high rates of accidents on the road, at home, and in the workplace.

Mr Buqueras is calling on the government to shorten the working day, and bring office hours more in line with the rest of Europe.

But the rest of Europe could arguably also learn from Spain, which perhaps should not be so quick to renounce the siesta.

The traditional two-hour snooze may be a little excessive, but doctors say a brief shut-eye at midday helps keep stress and heart disease at bay.

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