Lifestyle

The British siesta: how Peter Andre tried to get the UK into bed

Length: Twenty minutes is ideal.

Age: At least 2,000: “siesta” is derived from the Roman “sexta hora”.

Don’t tell me – we’re talking about a new feelgood summer sleep show hosted by Phillip Schofield and Fearne Cotton, where dozy Brits compete to win an absurdly expensive bed? No, we’re talking about a radio interview with Peter Andre who, presumably drawing on his Greek Cypriot heritage, has been trying to persuade the government to make siestas part of British working life.

But we already have naps. What’s the difference? Siestas are sexier, all gently billowing linen curtains and chirping cicadas. A nap is what you make a toddler have after it throws a fishfinger at you.

But we’re still talking about a short sleep after lunch, aren’t we? Yes. Andre’s argument is that napping improves productivity. Science agrees: research shows siestas improve reaction time and reasoning, memory and mood, reducing impulsivity and frustration. Silicon Valley is mad for nap pods and sleep nooks.

But making us all take government-mandated naps would be a fairly literal interpretation of the nanny state: don’t the Tories hate that? True, though as you may recall, much like Winston Churchill, Gwyneth Paltrow and Albert Einstein, our esteemed prime minister is reported to be a regular napper, an allegation rejected as “untrue” by his press secretary.

Hmm. If he is, it hasn’t done wonders for his impulsivity, has it? No, and as Andre himself noted, Johnson “does look a lot of the time as if he is sleeping while standing up”.

So is the government now taking productivity advice from the seventh-placed contestant on 2015’s Strictly Come Dancing? Stranger things have happened, but no. Downing Street was reportedly having none of Andre’s decadent continental ways. Apparently, officials thought the Brits would be more likely to spend their siesta time drinking. “‘When they go the pub they can have quite a few drinks and they are not going to come back to work in the afternoon,’” Andre reported his unnamed Downing Street interlocutor had told him. “That was their reasoning … that the Brits will go to the pub.”

Well, needs must: we don’t all have a wheely suitcase full of booze stashed next to the filing cabinet. Exactly. Not everyone can rely on “work events” to get our daily units in.

I’m glad it’s not happening. I hate naps: you wake up groggy, dishevelled and sticky-mouthed, then stagger around angrily like a wounded bear. Are you sure you’re not already mistaking sleepy time for three swift pints?

Do say: “Sorry, we can’t accommodate your holiday request, but how about 15 minutes in the corporate nap pod?”

Don’t say: “If they didn’t want us to drink, they shouldn’t have made it rhyme with fiesta.”

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