A Brief History of the Siesta


Summer’s here and there’s a heat wave to go with it so we thought this post should be about the Siesta, which originated in Greek or Roman times as a way to escape the intense midday heat around the Mediterranean. These civilizations had a custom called the sixth hour rest, taken at the hottest part of the day.

The word Siesta comes from the Spanish word for sixth – sexta, and now means nap. As the Spanish influence spread into Latin America the idea of the Siesta has taken hold throughout the world. After the Spanish Civil War, many people had to work two jobs to survive, and the hours between 4:00pm and 6:00pm became a time to eat and rest before heading out to a second job. 

This time period is still characteristic of Spain, although the standard 20-30 minute custom of taking a nap is diminishing as more Western-style working hours take hold.

But the tradition in other forms lives on! In the U.S. and other countries the idea of the power nap has taken hold. The power nap, about 20 minutes long, can restore alertness and reverse the impact of a poor night’s sleep. A university study found better memory recall after a short period of sleep. Studies have shown that limiting your siesta to under 45 minutes is the optimal period for a nap, otherwise you may drift into deep sleep which is when you wake up groggy for a while.

Since the long lunch period is still a tradition in Spain and it’s been so hot, here’s a recipe for Gazpacho, the Andalusian cold vegetable soup, perfect for a summer’s day.

Stay out of the sun and heat and learn Spanish this summer with our online personal lessons. Click HERE for more information.