Why Do Some Countries Take Siestas?

Do you love a good nap? If so, you’d probably like to spend some time in a country like Spain, where the “siesta,” or early afternoon nap, is a widely-known tradition.

But why is it that the residents of only some countries take siestas while others don’t? Is there something about certain areas of the world that makes people sleepy, or maybe something in their food or water supply that brings on drowsiness? Read on to discover why some countries’ residents take siestas.

What Is a Siesta?

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While you’ve probably heard the term “siesta,” let’s get clear on its specific meaning.

A siesta is a nap following a midday meal. It can vary in duration. Some people will indulge in only a brief 10-20-minute siesta, while others go all out and enjoy a two-hour snooze.

Why Take a Siesta?

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Other than the obvious fact that naps are delightful? It’s generally accepted that two factors play into the motivation to take a siesta: weather and digestion.

Siestas tend to be most popular in countries where the temperatures are warm, and a siesta is a great way to sleep away the times when the sun is at its hottest.

Additionally, siestas tend to be followed in countries where the midday meal is largest. If you love brunch, then you probably know how easy it is to get drowsy following a large midday meal. The siesta is simply a way of giving in to the sleepiness and taking a rest!

Of course, even if you don’t live in a warm-weather climate or eat a big meal in the afternoon, a nap is always enjoyable.

What about the name? The term siesta is taken from the Latin term meaning “sixth hour.” When you consider the day as starting at dawn, the sixth hour refers to midday.

Countries That Take Siestas

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Where oh where in the world are siestas taken? Here are just a few examples:

  • Costa Rica: In Costa Rica, the siesta is observed by many businesses. In fact, travelers are advised to avoid planning museum visits or shopping in the hours after midday because many shops and businesses shut down for “lunch and a rest.”
  • Greece: In Greece, several hours in the afternoon are nationally observed as quiet time. During this highly civil time, residents are free to rest and take a nap. It’s taken very seriously. These quiet hours are mandated by law!
  • Italy: Referred to as a “riposo,” “pennichella,” or “pisolino” in Italy, a post-lunch repose is common. In fact, many business establishments close for a couple of hours during the midday to allow for adherence to this custom.
  • Mexico: Technically, Mexico abolished the siesta in 1944. But unofficially, those who can, still do. Following lunch, lucky workers get to take a break to go home for a brief rest before getting back into the swing of things.
  • Philippines: When the Spanish colonized the Philippines, they brought the tradition of the siesta with them. Though that was many years ago, the tradition is still enjoyed in many parts of the Philippines by children and adults alike.
  • Spain: Spain takes its siestas very seriously. Following the large midday meal, many establishments close from about 2-5 p.m., only to open later in the day to begin the cocktail hour and evening activities. Perhaps because of this custom, dinner tends to be eaten very late in Spain.

Afternoon Delight

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If the idea of an afternoon nap sounds like pure bliss to you, then perhaps one of these countries should be your next travel destination. It’s the perfect way to while away the afternoon hours and wake up refreshed for a pleasant and cool evening of adventure.

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