Siestas for beginners

If you have ever been to Spain, you probably know that, when the sun is at its highest point, the life out on the streets dies out somewhat. During these sizzling hours, the Spanish enjoy their traditional siesta, a beauty sleep which cuts their working day in two. Throughout the years, ‘siesta’ has become a synonym for the Spanish culture and its laid-back character. But how does such a traditional nap look like? This beginner’s guide shows you the ins and outs of the perfect, Spanish afternoon shut-eye.

TEXT: ARNE ADRIAENSSENS | PHOTO © SHUTTERSTOCK

Where many believe that siestas have been common in Spain since the beginning of time, it is a rather new phenomenon. It was only in the 1920s that high-ranked clerks started to rearrange their working hours, creating a longer lunch break in which they could take a nap. In the following decades, their subordinates followed this example, creating the now-legendary Spanish working rhythm.

Why take a siesta?

The question to ask is: why not take one? Closing your eyes after lunch prevents stress, improves your memory and is good for your heart. Yet, the foremost reason for the Spaniards to take one is, of course, to escape the Spanish summer heat. As Spaniards usually work until 8 pm, they like to stay up late as well. Taking a siesta also helps them to compensate for those short nights.


Photo © Pexels

When is siesta time?

Traditionally, the Spanish are off between 2 pm and 4 pm. They call these long lunchbreaks their ‘little weekends’. Once off, they first cook themselves a hot meal. Given the importance of proper lunching in Spain, this can even be a three- or four-course meal. Once full, they settle somewhere comfortable and try to catch some sleep. Before closing their eyes, they usually drink a cup of coffee. Although this might sound odd, it actually makes total sense. As it takes about 20 minutes for the caffeine to kick in, the energy boost will present itself right when they want to wake up again. Because a siesta is all but a multiple-hour sleeping break. A self-respecting Spaniard always limits it to 20 or 30 minutes only. If you stay horizontal much longer, you probably remain sleepy for the rest of the day.

Where to take a siesta?

Those working close to home, usually opt for the comfort of their proper bed or sofa. Yet, as many people can’t head home during their break, it isn’t weird at all to take your nap in your local park or square. Lay down in the grass underneath a tree, make yourself comfortable on a park bench or occupy the back of your car.

Rain plan: When going home for a siesta isn’t possible and the weather isn’t outdoor-siesta-proof, you can go to Siesta & Go in Madrid. In this first siesta bar in Spain, you can rent a bed per minute or hour. For example, you can have a top bunk in a dorm for eight euros an hour. You can book your brief stay beforehand or just walk in whenever you feel sleepy.

In need of a lullaby: To help you catch your sleep fast, you can watch Napflix. This quirky, free parody on Netflix only offers videos which are so boring that you fall asleep instantly. A one-hour video of a juice bottling plant, a traditional mass in Latin… the choice is yours!

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