Ahhh, the siesta. That romantic, pastoral image associated with long ago and the ultimate example of a laid back culture. Surely in today’s modern, fast-paced society, full of iPhones, Facebook notifications and 24-hour news, such a glorious time designated for relaxation couldn’t exist.
Oh wait, it does.
One of my first questions when I came to Spain was, “So, the siesta…is that actually real?” It may have sounded dumb, but for someone who just chugs another cup of coffee mid-day to keep going, I was looking forward to this possible change of pace.
Historically, the siesta was considered a physical necessity and a relaxing way to avoid the hottest part of the day for 2 hours. Today, with a more rapid pace and coffee, the biological need for a short nap in the middle of the day has been turned into a luxury. But as much as we try to fight that afternoon drowsiness, it would be much more effective (and enjoyable) to take a 20-30 minute nap, rather than keep going like the Little Engine That Could.
Humans are bi-phasic (meaning we need two periods of sleep every 24-hours) and research shows that our energy levels drop during the mid-afternoon. It becomes difficult to focus, think clearly and be productive. But with a 20-30 minute nap, your mind and body have been refreshed and the rest of the day is easier and certainly more productive.
What do you think I was doing before I sat down to write? Yep, napping.
Believe me, it took a while to submit my stubborn, “NO. I MUST BE AWAKE AT ALL TIMES.” mentality to a nap, but…I mean…I had to try this. For research purposes, of course 😉
But here’s the thing: On the days I took a short nap I noticed a significant difference in my energy levels, my overall mood and productivity. I felt refreshed and ready to work again. My head was clear and I was just…happier!
In Spain, the siesta takes place after lunchtime, in the later afternoon. Even if some Spaniards don’t fall asleep, it is a time for relaxation, family and friends and a general break from work. Shops and offices close for a few hours and restaurants and bars grow to full capacity.
If Spaniards eat at home, many of them will doze on the sofa for 20 minutes or so, TV remote control in hand.
I believe this healthy disconnect from the working world is one of the many reasons Spain (Seville, in my experience) has such a laid-back, yet lively and spontaneous, vibe. And it also allows for the more late-night tapas culture! Like, we’re talking 9pm for dinner.
In Spain, sitting down and savoring a lunch with friends or family members, rather than spending it hunched over a computer, tends to be the priority. A café con leche isn’t just used for the caffeine, it’s used to simply put everything else on hold and enjoy a moment to yourself.
Whether you’re at home or traveling in Spain, leave time in the afternoons to indulge in this underrated necessity. And some olive oil. And red wine.
Because a little disconnect is good for the soul. Truly. I promise the world won’t fall apart if you put your phone on silent or if you don’t check your email for an hour. Instead, you’ll notice a positive shift in your mental clarity, emotions and energy levels.
If you aren’t able to nap during the afternoon (because, let’s be real, our American culture doesn’t really work that in to our 9-5 schedule) go for a quick walk after lunch, eat your food away from your computer and stop the “social media scroll” on your phone. Be alone with yourself and your thoughts. Let your mind wander.
This “mind wandering” is good for the soul.
References: Siesta Awareness
This post was originally published on Andalucia Inside.