The Culture of the Siesta

Siesta in a car! Photo taken in The Netherlands.

It happens to all of us. We finish lunch and get ready to return to work. Then it hits you: the post-lunch midday slump.

In some cultures, it is completely acceptable to doze off  after lunch. Siestas originated from the Latin “hora sexta” (sixth hour), alluding to the time the midday rest started. Naps are quite popular in Spain, Latin America, Asia, and in Middle Eastern countries, where heat and a heavy lunch can limit afternoon productivity. In the Middle East, people often take naps between prayers. In Japan, some offices even set up special rooms dedicated to after-lunch naps. Even in America, there is the concept of the power nap.

Nap pod. Photo from

A recent article by The Scientific American reported that sleep patterns can vary widely among Americans and immigrants. Makes you wonder if that is partly influenced by the existence of siestas?

“Scientists have now found significant differences exist in how people sleep in the U.S. depending on race, ethnicity and country of origin, suggesting genetic or cultural differences in shut-eye patterns. This line of research could help identify how these disparities might affect health and find better ways to improve sleep.” – Charles Q. Choi


Have you noticed any interesting cultural differences, in terms of siestas, while traveling? Do you think employees and the work environment would benefit from naps? Do they increase or decrease productivity?

3 thoughts on “The Culture of the Siesta

  1. Completely understandable! 18 hour days are brutal! I would agree that power naps could revive energy, which would (hopefully) result in increased productivity.

  2. The power nap helped me survive 18 hour days when the kids were small and I worked second shift. Even closing your eyes for a few minutes makes a huge difference. We need naps here in the US.

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