Come 2 pm, the bustling gali mohallas of Kolkata take on a languid, deserted appearance. Sun-withered homes succumb to the heat, cradling their drowsy inhabitants who retire for the afternoon under quietly whirring fans until the call for tea rouses them from their comatose state. Dogs snooze peacefully, flies hum drunkenly and the world is at peace for a couple of hours.
Though the fast pace of corporate life has altered the city's laidback genes in recent years, Kolkata to some extent still is largely a place where people who can afford to put their lives on hold for some hours each day, do.
Compare this to Delhi or Mumbai where emails are zipping to and fro frantically and phones incessantly ring over chaotic dins at all hours. Sleep is distilled by caffeine kicks and nicotine highs because there aren't enough hours in one day to wade through all the work piling up. Yawns are impatiently stifled, and the thought of an afternoon siesta is laughable; anyone caught napping is mocked at.
Unfortunately for us, we don’t realise we are driving ourselves to major burnouts by not taking a leaf out of Kolkata's books. Lack of sleep can elevate your cortisol –- also known as the stress hormone levels –- which leaves you grouchy, anxious and can affect your glucose intolerance and abdominal fat, according to artofmanliness.com that features information from 'Take a Nap! Change Your Life' by Sarah C Mednick, Ph.D. The National Sleep Foundation also reported that during a NASA study on tired military pilots and astronauts, a 40-minute nap improved their sleep by 34 per cent and alertness by 100 per cent.
Does your boss still need convincing? Point him in the direction of menshealth.com which records interesting reasons for exactly how afternoon naps work in your favour to improve your overall performance and lifestyle in the long run.
“I remember afternoons in Kolkata,” says Aditi Sengupta, a senior editor at Lonely Planet India. “The rooms would reverberate with the sound of snoring. I was in a joint family and every uncle, every aunt, even domestic help snored!”
Cut to the Goan Susegad –- a Portuguese inspired term (originating from Socegado) that means "taking life at a relaxed pace," even though Goans are known to be hard workers. “Of course given that Goa is the tourist destination, hotels have to function at all hours,” says Sheela Jayawant, a Goa-based columnist and fiction writer. “Times have changed with the availability of internet and air conditioning that allows you to work anywhere. But back in 1996, Panjim was a dead town between 1 and 4pm!”
While both she and Sengupta feel that this was in no means productive (“Kolkata should have done better for itself if that much of siesta improved output!” says Sengupta), there is a middle napping ground. The National Sleep Foundation claims that, “A short nap is usually recommended (20-30) minutes for short-term alertness. This type of naps provides significant benefit for improved alertness and performance without leaving you groggy or interfering with nighttime sleep”. The Daily Mail adds to this, quoting sleep expert Dr Michael Breus, who asks “Have you ever taken a nap and felt worse when you woke up? That’s what’s happening — you’re sleeping too long and you’re going into a stage of sleep that’s very difficult to get out of.’’ Any more than 30 minutes and you’re inviting sleep inertia to mess with your system –- and your salary!
So the next time your chin’s slowly making its way to rest on your chest, thank the Portuguese and allow it a 40-wink episode in a quiet spot preferably (the innards of your car in the office basement won’t lead to much questioning from your boss). But set an alarm because even Susegad should be enjoyed in moderation!