BUENOS AIRES — Napping, a Mediterranean habit now spreading to distant countries, is being seen as a way to boost the productivity of employees.

In Argentina, which may have had and then lost, the siesta tradition due to cultural ties to Spain and Italy, firms and universities are creating napping spaces to counter the exhaustion, distraction and irritability that peaks around 2 p.m.

Observers say napping at the workplace began as a social phenomenon in Argentina around 2010. It's now a feature of prestigious workplaces like Google's waterfront offices in Puerto Madero, the architecture faculty at the University of Buenos Aires and the UADE, a private business university, which has a seven-square-meter resting zone.

The World Health Organization says it's good to sleep eight hours. In Argentina, 15% of people sleep less than six hours a day while a study by the Argentine Catholic University (UCA) found that 22% of Argentines were "too drowsy" in the day.

"Sleep depends on so many things, from your salary to quality of life and, certainly, work productivity," says Daniel Cardinali, head of teaching and research at UCA department of medicine. "Those with fewer resources end up sleeping fewer hours."

UADE's napping zone — Photo: Gise Acerdbi Facebook page

The "grass patch" is the name UBA architecture students give their napping zone. Six of them won a prize for developing a napping structure here, which consists of a metal structure covered in synthetic grass and wood.

"Two o'clock is the peak hour. That's when a lot of people go hoping to find a free space in the siestario," 21-year-old image design student Mariel Salomon tells Clarín, referring to the napping structure intended both for socializing and sleep.

Resting places are a response to the complex nature of modern city life. This is the idea reflected in the minimalist space created at Google's offices, which has a wooden floor, a big blue poof the size of a bed, rugs, and furniture space for phones and books. Workers can use the space for up to 25 minutes a day. "When the door is shut, we know someone is resting," a Google spokesman says.

The siesta time should be short, no more than 20 minutes

Lack of rest is no small matter. The country's Cognitive Neurology Institute (INECO), believes 40% of the world's population has sleeping problems and 6% have insomnia, which is "considered a mental problem that does not have organic causes but coincides directly with mental patterns like worry, anxiety and bad habits," says Pablo López, of INECO's psychotherapy department.

That makes siesta a solution for everyone. "Siestas are not recommended for those with sleeping problems," López says, adding that for those who do not have this problem, "the siesta time should be short, no more than 20 minutes. That is enough to recover attention and consolidate memory, so the nap doesn't become an attempt at controlling sleep."

The decoration firm Arredo likes to see rest as healing and constructive. The company's creative director, Fernando Zuber, tells Clarín that Arredo has worked with government researchers from Conicet to design napping spaces for employees in its offices in the district of Barracas and for customers at Arredo Factory, one of its shops in central Buenos Aires.

Napping zones are also a part of its Proyecto Dormir campaign to promote healthy sleeping.

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