The Siesta: Then and Now

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Celebrating Cinco de Mayo today? All those tacos may make you want to take a siesta. Did you know that the tradition of the siesta dates back thousands of years to ancient Islam. While it wasn’t called the siesta then, the practice is recorded in Islamic Law, and is also documented in the Koran. Ancient Romans also took regular nap breaks during the day. The original intent was to give people in hot climates a break during the hottest parts of the day. The term as we know it means “the sixth hour” in Latin, or hora sexta.

Today, the middle of the day break is recognized in Spanish-speaking countries around the world, as well as in Italy (the ancient Roman influence), Greece, Nigeria, and The Philippines. And while a physical nap isn’t as necessary in today’s workforce, many areas that have embraced the siesta tradition now use the time to visit with family and friends in the middle of the work day.

It has been discussed to end the siesta tradition in Spain for many reasons. One reason being tourism. It is seen by many visitors to these countries as an inconvenience, while some people find the tradition to be charming and quaint. Another reason is to allow parents more work/life balance, which on the surface a siesta would seem to provide. However, those two extra working hours at the end of a traditional work day are keeping parents from seeing their kids in the evening before bed time. Another consideration is the extended childcare hours, and the economic burden this is putting on an already struggling economy.

Whether you’re for or against the daily practice of the siesta, we can all agree that quality sleep and restful downtime are necessary for all ages and cultures.



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