What Is a Siesta?

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A siesta is a short nap or rest period, usually taken in the early afternoon. It is a common practice in many cultures, particularly in warm climates, where the midday heat can be intense. Siestas are believed to improve productivity, mental alertness, and overall well-being. They can help combat fatigue and increase energy levels, allowing individuals to recharge and be more focused for the remainder of the day. Siestas can range from 15 minutes to a few hours, depending on personal preference and schedule. Overall, siestas offer a refreshing break and can contribute to a healthier work-life balance.

Are you always feeling tired? Does it seem like you can never catch up on your sleep? Perhaps you need a siesta!

A siesta is a brief nap that is taken during the early afternoon after the midday meal. Siestas are a custom in certain countries, particularly those with warm climates.

For instance, siestas have long been associated with Spain and, because of Spanish influence, many Latin American countries. In these countries, the midday meal (referred to as “lunch” in the United States) is often the largest meal of the day.

When you combine a substantial midday meal with the hottest temperatures of the day, it’s understandable why people would choose to take a siesta in the early afternoon. After resting, they then work later into the evening when the temperatures are more tolerable.

Siesta means “midday rest.” It originates 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 begun to recognize the health and productivity benefits of “power naps.”

The concept of the siesta has existed for thousands of years. In fact, siestas were once believed to be a physical necessity, not just a luxury.

There is some support for the idea that people worldwide — not just those in warm climates — should rest for a short period in the afternoon to replenish energy levels.

Many experts believe that humans are “biphasic” and therefore require two periods of sleep each day: a long uninterrupted period at night and a much shorter one during the day. Unlike most other mammals that take naps, many humans attempt to make it through each day without a nap.

However, as most adults can attest, early afternoon often brings a decrease in energy levels and productivity. During this part of the day, it can be difficult to concentrate and think clearly. A short nap can often restore alertness and concentration, enabling us to be more productive for the remainder 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 sun, most experts believe that a short 10- to 20-minute nap is sufficient to enhance health and productivity.

Of course, if you do not get enough sleep at night, you will need an afternoon nap even more. Attempting to “catch up” on sleep is not a healthy pattern to establish, so it is best to get adequate rest each night. Napping will not compensate for chronic 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 restaurants is from about 4 p.m. until around 8 or 9 p.m.

With modern air-conditioned offices, there is less need for a siesta to avoid the midday heat. As a result, many Spanish businesses are gradually reducing the frequency of siestas as they attempt to adopt a work schedule more similar to the rest of Europe.

Although many Spanish people no longer actually sleep during their daily siesta, they still enjoy a break from work to spend time with family and friends over a leisurely meal. This break from routine helps to refresh them, even without sleeping, so they can finish the day strong.

Give It a Try

Most children do not consider “nap” as one of their favorite words. However, as they get older, the word “nap” and the act of snoozing in the middle of the day become more popular.

  • Do you have a favorite stuffed friend that keeps you company while you sleep? If not, you can create a Sleep Soctopus! Ask an adult to help you find a suitable sock and gather the necessary supplies.
  • If you have trouble sleeping, a Sleep Diary might be helpful in identifying the reasons behind it. Print out the provided sleep diary resource and fill it out every day with the help of a trusted adult.
  • If you struggle with going to bed on time or building a good sleep routine, you can check out these 5 Ideas for Better Sleep from TeensHealth. Then, using supplies you have or Canva, create a chart to track your bedtime routine.


1. What is a siesta?

A siesta is a short nap or break in the middle of the day, typically taken after lunch. It is a common practice in many cultures, especially in hot countries where the afternoon heat can be intense.

2. Why do people take siestas?

People take siestas to rest and recharge during the hottest part of the day. It helps them to escape the heat and avoid the drowsiness that can come with it. Siestas are also believed to improve productivity and mental alertness, allowing people to work more efficiently in the cooler hours of the day.

3. How long does a siesta usually last?

The duration of a siesta can vary depending on personal preference and cultural norms. It can range from a short power nap of 15-30 minutes to a longer sleep of up to two hours. The ideal length of a siesta is often considered to be around 20-30 minutes, as it allows for rest without entering a deep sleep cycle.

4. Where is the siesta most common?

The siesta is most commonly practiced in countries with a warm climate, such as Spain, Mexico, and Greece. In these countries, the tradition of taking a midday break has been ingrained in the culture for centuries. However, siestas are also observed in other parts of the world, particularly in regions where the weather is hot and the pace of life is more relaxed.

5. What are the benefits of taking a siesta?

Taking a siesta has several benefits. It can help improve cognitive function, memory, and creativity. It also promotes relaxation and reduces stress. Siestas have been linked to a lower risk of heart disease and improved overall health. Additionally, by dividing the day into two parts, with a break in between, siestas can enhance work-life balance and improve productivity.

6. Are siestas still common in modern society?

While siestas are still common in some countries and cultures, their prevalence has decreased in modern society. The fast-paced lifestyle and changing work patterns have made it difficult for many people to take a midday nap. However, the concept of a power nap or short break to recharge during the day is still valued and practiced by some individuals, particularly those who work in flexible or non-traditional schedules.

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