Your boss calls it falling asleep on the job. You can call it `siesta syndrome'

It strikes after lunch, from 2-4pm. And it's costing Britain dear. Abigail Townsend reveals why
Click to follow
The Independent Online
The phone is blaring and the boss is bearing down. But you are slouched over the keyboard, doing nothing. For it is between 2pm and 4pm - and siesta syndrome has struck.

Apathy in the afternoon is severely damaging the national economy, according to a new study conducted by British scientists. And the country's workers are drifting off thanks largely to their poor diet.

Double portions of burgers and fish and chips washed down with pints of beer or sugary drinks are sending office staff across the UK into a snooze zone.

Of 1,000 workers questioned, most blamed extreme tiredness for an increase in mistakes during the two-hour wave of weariness. The drop in output is also down to a natural break taken by the body at that time of day, as well as the onset of boredom.

The catering group Avenance, which commissioned the survey, said the slump was costing British industry millions of pounds. Its chief executive, Mike Audis, added: "Less work and costly errors during the afternoon means the UK siesta syndrome is having a devastating impact on the company's bottom line and its reputation."

Too many workers are eating either sugary snacks, which cause insulin levels to rocket, or high-fat foods that are hard to digest. Drinking at lunchtime also adds to the afternoon malaise.

Stephen Harling, a director at Avenance, said he was surprised more employers had not addressed the problem. "Look at what industry spends on recruiting people, on training them, keeping them - what it spends on ergonomics, for example. But it doesn't look after workers from a food point of view. This is affecting productivity - and you don't need a significant reduction to add cost to a product."

Mr Harling also criticised the food being offered by many companies on site and warned that it could prompt lunchtime drinking. "If the food on offer is poor and doesn't inspire people, they will go off site, and if they do that, generally they are going to go to the pub."

Britons' unofficial office siesta has arrived as countries more often associated with an afternoon slumber are waking up to the economic costs of taking a nap while the rest of the world works. While Spaniards once drifted off after lunch, that country's new corporate culture now spurns the notion as being unproductive.

No such worries in the offices of London, Birmingham and Manchester, though. Here the big sleep is just beginning. But it's not all down to diet: the body has a natural "down" period in the afternoon which, aside from poor eating habits, is another reason people tend to feel tired after lunch.

"We naturally have a slump [in the afternoon] and for us to keep going from 8am right through the day is asking a lot," said Raffaella Piovesan, a dietician. "When it comes to recharging the body, a lot of people believe in power naps, and that is what essentially a siesta is."

However, Ms Piovesan conceded that it was unrealistic to expect the siesta to become accepted in the UK just as it is being ditched elsewhere.

Instead, to overcome the syndrome, people should eat regularly throughout the day, snacking on healthy foods such as fruit and vegetables. Lunchtime meals should be restricted to healthy options, for example a tuna salad sandwich or fish or chicken with steamed vegetables. Refuelling on light, vitamin-rich food, it seems, can keep the daytime dozing at bay.

THE BODY CLOCK

Breakfast and good night's sleep boost energy

Commute is drain on brain, but activity still high

Body and mind in optimum condition for work

Mid-morning snack required to stave off slump

Lunchtime refuelling under way - with threat of fatigue

Siesta syndrome strikes, often after big lunch

Energy resurgence, helped by power-napping and light snacks

Weariness returns towards bedtime as body prepares itself for main rest

Finally body and brain get to recuperate during sleep

Comments