Do you always feel tired? Does it seem like you can never get caught up on your sleep? Maybe you need a siesta!
A siesta is a short nap taken during the early part of the afternoon after the midday meal. Siestas are a tradition in some countries, especially those where the weather is particularly warm.
For example, siestas have long been associated with Spain and, due to Spanish influence, many Latin American countries. In these countries, the midday meal (what we call "lunch" here in the United States) is often the biggest meal of the day.
When you combine a big midday meal with the hottest temperatures of the day, it's easy to see why people would choose to take a siesta in the early afternoon. After resting, they then work later into the evening when temperatures are more bearable.
Siesta means “midday rest." It comes from the Latin phrase hora sexto, which means “the sixth hour" or approximately noon.
Midday naps are popular in many countries, including Greece, Serbia, Slovenia, China and Taiwan. Even people in the United States have started to recognize the health and productivity benefits of “power naps."
The idea of the siesta has been around for thousands of years. In fact, siestas were once thought to be a physical necessity, rather than a mere luxury.
There appears to be some support for the idea that people all over the world — not just those in warm climates — should rest for a short time in the afternoon to revive energy levels.
Many experts believe humans are "biphasic" and thus need two periods of sleep each day: a long uninterrupted period at night and a much shorter one during the day. Unlike most other mammals who nap, many humans try to make it through every day without a nap.
However, as most adults can attest, early afternoon often brings with it a drop in energy levels and productivity. During this part of the day, it can be hard to concentrate and think clearly. A short nap can often restore alertness and concentration, allowing us to be more productive the rest of the day.
If you decide to take a siesta, how long should you sleep? Although traditional Spanish siestas can last for two hours or more to avoid the hot sunshine, most experts believe a short 10- to 20-minute nap is enough to improve health and productivity.
Of course, if you don't get enough sleep at night, you'll need an afternoon nap even more. Trying to “catch up" on sleep is not a good pattern to get started, so it's best to get sufficient rest each night. Napping will not make up for serious sleep deficiencies over time.
Today, there are two periods of siesta in Spain. The siesta for shops and businesses is from about 2 p.m. until 5 p.m. The siesta for bars and restaurants is from about 4 p.m. until around 8 p.m. or 9 p.m.
With modern air-conditioned offices, there is less need for a siesta to avoid the heat of midday. As a result, many Spanish businesses are taking siestas less and less as they try to observe a work schedule more like the rest of Europe.
Many Spanish people still look forward to the daily siesta, though. Although many don't actually sleep during this time, they do enjoy a break from work to spend time with family and friends over the course of a leisurely meal. Even without sleeping, this break from routine serves to refresh them, so they can finish the day strong.