A siesta is the traditional, mid-day nap taken by many in Spain and Latin America, though it’s not exclusive to this region of the world. The siesta was originally an attempt to help workers get through the heat of the day before they had air conditioning and refrigeration, though the history of this act goes back much further than that. In this article, we’ll examine what a siesta actually is, how it came to be and why it hasn’t completely died out as an everyday part of life in certain areas of the world, specifically Latin America and Spain.
What is a siesta?
A siesta is a traditional mid-afternoon nap that allows people to have extra energy for a second evening activity. This way of resting is particularly common in Mediterranean countries such as Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal. However, we can also find versions of it around Asia and South America.
The siesta’s history
The siesta dates back to pre-Christian times, when it was common for people of all walks of life to take breaks between two and five p.m. A nap was a social requirement—an excuse, if you will, for taking a break from hard work. While those days are gone (at least officially), many Spaniards still hold on tight to their afternoon respite.
The benefits of napping
The Spanish are famous for their siestas, or afternoon nap. What they don’t get enough credit for is that they also know how important it is to be able to fall asleep and wake up easily. More than just an excuse to take a nap on a hot summer day, napping can have a number of health benefits when done correctly.
For one thing, those who sleep between six and nine hours a night can cut their risk of heart disease by 33 percent. Naps even help fend off diseases like diabetes and Alzheimer’s; women who slept less than four hours a night had higher rates of type 2 diabetes than those who slept seven to eight hours per night. Similarly, people with lower amounts of REM sleep experience impairment in memory formation.
How to do a proper siesta?
Siestas originated as a way for Spanish farmers and other field workers to recharge and avoid heat-related illnesses. The ritual consists of a short nap taken between 2pm and 4pm—ideally, during the hottest part of a hot summer day. Siestas are typically only an hour or two long, but it’s not unusual for those who partake in them to sleep for several hours.
About naps at work
Have you ever had a nap at work? There are more and more companies that are beginning to have naps for their employees. Many people don’t realize how good napping can be for them. Read these facts about why you should nap at work! It’s common sense that sleep has a huge impact on your health and wellbeing; our body needs both REM (rapid eye movement) and non-REM sleep to function properly, although each serves different purposes.
In fact, if we don’t get enough of either one, we begin to feel tired and lethargic. Sleep is also important because it allows us to process memories and learn new information—it also helps us regulate our emotions so we don’t feel as stressed or sad when we wake up. So before trying anything else, try taking a nap or a siesta ;).
Looking to live a slower life in general? Read our article about an Italian saying; ‘Il Dolce far Niente‘ and apply the new principles to your lifestyle.