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Bedtime Stories

What’s Up With the Spanish Siesta?

Most of us get that 2:30 p.m. slump where the thought of 3 more hours of work brings on a despairing yawn. Our two options: nap under our desk or guzzle one of those stomach-churning energy shots that taste like battery acid. Ugh. Doesn’t a midday nap at home on your OkiOki sound so much better? Enter the Spanish siesta: the envy of all 9-to-5-ers in the United States.

What is a siesta?

A siesta is a midday nap or rest period often practiced in regions where the afternoon heat is so severe, it leaves you feeling like a sun-dried tomato. Although many countries practice this tradition - from Norway to Japan - the siesta is most commonly associated with Spain.

The siesta typically runs from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. During that time, most business owners close up shop, with the exception of a few restaurants that remain open for lunch. While you won’t hear crickets at 3 p.m., the streets are noticeably quieter. When the siesta is over, most Spaniards go back to work until around 8 or 9 p.m.

How did it start?

Siestas originated with the Romans and were practiced in regions close to the equator. To give workers a break from the crippling midday sun, it made sense to allow them to go home and nap until the temperatures cooled down.

Another reason for the siesta was the cultural importance of enjoying a long lunch with family and friends. These lunches often involved elaborate home-cooked meals and a bit of alcohol. A glass of wine on a Wednesday afternoon? Well, don’t mind if we do...

Is it still practiced today?

Kind of, not really. It seems like the Spanish siesta is just another cultural tradition that has died out due to societal modernization. Now that buildings have air conditioning and many people commute far to work, it is unnecessary and often inconvenient to travel home for lunch. Some Spaniards advocate ending this tradition altogether. In 2016, the Spanish Prime Minister called to replace this system with a workday that ends at 6 p.m.

Although many shops still shut down and those who work close to home may still enjoy a midday nap, most Spaniards use the long lunch to eat, run errands, or get extra work in. Apparently, around 60% of Spaniards do not nap during the break. The idea that Spaniards have a better work-life balance than us? False. With the workday ending around 8 p.m., it’s safe to say that our Spanish counterparts probably work even more hours than Americans.

*Sigh* We really thought the Spanish had it made. For all you uncompromising nap enthusiasts, may we suggest working at one of those cool tech start-ups that supply nap pods in the break rooms. Better yet, work from home and take a midday snooze on your OkiOki every day!
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