Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
The Post - Athens, OH
The independent newspaper covering campus and community since 1911.
The Post

From the Grapevine: Incorporating Spanish siestas into American culture

I will be studying abroad in Spain this summer, and I have recently learned about cultural differences to be aware of before traveling. One that I knew of, but never took into consideration, was the slow-paced movement and historical tradition of the siesta, or a short nap after a midday meal. Siestas are commonly associated with Spain but have become an important part of daily life for people of many countries. In the U.S. where “time is money,” a new perspective on rest might bring peace in taking things slow. 

There are a few theories about the origin of siestas in Spain. The first comes from the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s when poverty in Spanish communities required people to work multiple jobs to support their families. This economic disparity made midday naps important between shifts.

Another more renowned theory is the necessity of a break during the hottest hours of the day. Workers and shopkeepers would go home to rest in the shade and have a big lunch before returning in the cooler afternoon. Countries close to the equator like the Philippines, Northern Africa and the Middle East have participated in this tradition to give workers a break from the heat. Similarly, other countries have taken their own approaches to daily rest.

In Japan, inemuri, or “sleeping while present,” is a corporate culture normality where workers can doze off in a meeting or at their desks without being accused of sleeping since they’re not in bed. It is also normal for people to take a nap in the subway, restaurant or any public space.

In West Bengal of India, bhaat ghum is a common expression that means “a nap after eating rice.” More than a nap, it is a very deep sleep after eating the traditional dishes khichdi or dal bhaat (rice and pulses). This Indian tradition encourages slowing down and enjoying the pleasures of life while also avoiding midday temperatures. 

Napping has a multitude of physical and mental health benefits from relieving stress to improving cognitive function, memory and mood. According to Sleep Foundation, the optimal power nap is between 20-30 minutes so as not to fall into deep sleep, being more difficult to wake up from. The best time to nap is about 8 hours before bedtime, usually before 3 p.m. Some people partake in “caffeine naps” where they drink caffeine right before a nap. The caffeine takes about 30 minutes to kick in, so you wake up feeling refreshed and alert.

In addition to taking midday naps, Spain has an overarching culture of taking one’s time. There’s no hurry or rush, but everyone still gets things done and gets to where they need to be. They walk to their destinations taking in the beauty of the scenery, living in the present moment. 

Spaniards might stop and chat with a stranger for a few minutes without trying to escape and get to the next item of the day’s itinerary. In 2017, Spain opened the first nap café in Madrid called Siesta and Go, where anyone can pay for a safe place to rest. Its motto is “Your place of rest, far from home.” 

A fast pace is engraved into American culture because of our roots in true free-market capitalism where we “pull ourselves up by the bootstraps,” originally stemming from hard-working immigrants who took every opportunity as a gift to create a better life. However, those who take naps and breaks might be seen as lazy and falling behind; punctuality is important and days are distinctly scheduled. 

By taking some time in the day to rest, whether that means taking a nap, reading a book or just closing your eyes for a few minutes in a library or café, you are giving yourself a break from the constant consumption of information and deadlines that eventually boil over. Take the scenic route to class or work, and give yourself an hour or two in the day to forget about what you have to do. Sometimes what you have to do does not align with what you need: to let go and rest. 

Libby Evans is a sophomore studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk more about it? Let Libby know by emailing her at

Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2016-2024 The Post, Athens OH