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German unions want siestas

world Updated: Jul 19, 2011 00:03 IST

Angela Merkel might be calling the southern Europeans lazy these days. But German union leaders are calling for their compatriots to emulate them in at least one way: by taking siestas.

The DGB confederation of trade unions argues that a short, lunchtime power nap makes sense for health and performance reasons.

"A short afternoon nap reduces the risk of, for example, a heart attack, and provides an energy boost," Annelie Buntenbach, a DGB executive board member told Tageszeitung in an interview.

Studies bear this out.

Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health and the University of Athens Medical School in Greece found that Greek workers who took regular siestas had 37% lower mortality rates from coronary illnesses than their napless counterparts.

The idea has caught on in Germany, where big German companies such as BASF, Opel, Hornsbach and Lufthansa provide special rooms for their workers, and employers say they benefit from the increased productivity of well-rested employees.

Germans used to take siestas up until the industrial revolution. But the labour needs of the manufacturing economies caused the custom to die out in much of northern Europe.

It has been a diminishing custom in the south as well over the past two decades, one some are trying to bring back.