Praising the “siesta”

“Siesta” is one of the words that Spanish habits and language have given to the rest of the world. The siesta, which at first had a very bad reputation, is a not very long period of time in which you relax until fast sleep. There are short siestas (just a doze), there are long and deep siestas, everywhere and every time, mainly after lunch time and avoiding the heat of the midday sun in the Spanish summer.

On the whole, the siesta interrupts your working day for a few minutes and it lets you go on working with new strength. The English have the expressions “to have a doze” and “to have a nap” and it is said that Sir Winston Churchill was really keen on the siesta and during the Second World War he didn’t leave this habit not even in the hardest moments of the war. Most Spaniards think no task is so important that it can’t wait a couple of hours while you attend to more important matters like eating, relaxing, or catching up on sleep from a night on the town.

When the midday break comes, offices empty and streets clear in Spain. Foreigners quickly learn that they have entered a new timetable. And this has long made the Spanish the butt of jokes. But recent research shows that it’s the Spaniards who have the last laugh as taking a long break in the middle of the day is not only healthier than the conventional lunch, it’s apparently more natural. Sleep researchers have found that the Spanish biorhythm may be tuned more closely to our biological clocks. So there is a biological reason for siestas. Nowadays there are big companies which even provide their employees with suitable places to have a short siesta.

You can also have a doze in class (although your teacher might not like it) or while watching TV as at midday they always broadcast documentaries which helps you fall asleep and have a good siesta. A good siesta always clears your head but not everybody would agree with this because there are people who wake up from the siesta, as they do in the morning, very bad-tempered.


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3 thoughts on “Praising the “siesta””

  1. When I first moved to Spain I didn’t quite “get” the siesta; then the late-summer heat waves arrived in Valencia and I realized how important they are. Since then I have done a lot of research on “bi-phasic sleeping” and found it to be exceptionally beneficial in terms of health and even sleeping less.

  2. Your “siesta” post made me smile. Back in Uruguay, I grew up in a house where my grandfather would unhook the phone during siesta time and my friends knew that they couldn’t come during “siesta” time to play because my granny would chase them away.

    I thought it was only us, Latinos, the ones that enjoyed to nap. To my surprise, while living in China, I learned that they also have this habit. In fact, as you mentioned, most companies, in their offices, have the appropriate areas for napping. There’s a few case studies about big corporations failing in the China market simply because they wouldn’t take this aspect of their culture into consideration.

    Funny enough, the “siesta” topic was brought up a couple of months ago in a blog post by a couple of my colleagues in the translation industry, the Jenner twins. You can read the post, which has a nice amount of comments, here:

  3. I don’t know if the siesta had all that much of a bad ring to it (perhaps way back when), but I am convinced that it is one of the greatest inventions of all time! My brother lives in Madrid and although the tradition is slowly losing steam, even there (or so I’m told), he takes it seriously and I fall into the pattern every time I visit. You don’t have to rest for very long for it to be effective either. And because people have less time these days I’ve heard you can even go to places and rent a small room/bed for just a short time during the extended siesta lunch break for those who don’t have the time to go home and come back again. I wish something like a siesta (mini-siesta?) would catch on in the rest of Europe (or at least up here in Germany) and in the US. But I can keep on wishing, I guess.

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