I Love Siestas!

According to the press, the siesta is dying out in Spain as businesses have to stay open for as long as possible to try and make money. There are even reports that the tradition in many hot European countries to close down for the whole of August may be finishing too. It appears the global recession is really making people question traditional ways of living and doing business.

Nancy taking a siesta

In a busy tourist resort like Playa Blanca, many shops stay open all day and every day. I love coming back from a restaurant or night out and being able to call into a supermarket to do some shopping at 22.00 or even later. Local businesses tend to still have siesta but often it’s later in the day and sometimes things don’t start moving again until 17.00. The hottest part fo the day here is definitely from 16.00 to about 18.00 but I do notice that this is very much local to Playa Blanca, which generally seems to be warmer than elsewhere on the island. We often advise our visitors that the sun is not at its hottest here at midday but later in the afternoon and we also tell them that we have got into the habit of a siesta.

It really started for me when I was recovering from a serious back injury just after we moved out here. I found I needed to rest my back by mid afternoon and that if I laid flat for a couple of hours then, I could then cope with getting our evening meal and moving around for the rest of the day. Coupled with this enforced rest and the heavy duty medication I was taking, I soon found I was easily sleeping for 3 hours in the afternoon. When I finally recovered and didn’t need the medication, I still enjoyed resting and sleeping during siesta.

My brother described it as splitting up your traditional 8 hours sleep into two parts – four hours at night and four during the day. Except that I sleep for at least 8 hours every night and another 2 in my siesta! I’ve always been really good at sleeping!

The tradition of siesta is to shelter from the heat in the midday and then, refreshed, you can work on into the cooler evenings. But with air-conditioning so widespread, is this the case any more? It appears another reason it’s dying out is that people now live further from home and commute to work so they can’t return home for their lunch and a sleep. Traditionally the Spanish eat the main meal of the day at lunchtime and the siesta allows time to eat and digest your food. It also leads to the culture of staying up later in the night. We noticed that many events in Lanzarote don’t start until 22.00 in some places. The buses laid on for events like Los Dolores don’t return until 2 or 3 in the morning. At the fair in Playa Blanca, there were still very young children zooming about the place at midnight.

There are medical reasons why we need a midday nap and it’s all to to do with the natural cycles of the body. If you’re too hot at night it can disturb your sleep and so this makes a second sleep or midday nap even more important. Apparently, the best length of nap is 20 minutes. I think my body clock is telling me something as I normally doze for an hour or more and sleep for maybe 40 minutes. I wake up feeling refreshed so it’s all good.

We try and persuade our many visitors that it’s a good habit to get into but not many manage it so we leave them to read or take a swim while we have our siesta. Nancy, being a very cosmopolitan cat, has completely adjusted to the siesta and will find her favourite cool spot (in the wardrobe) at about 14.00 and sometimes we don’t see here again until early evening when she’s hungry. At the moment she is so well adapted to the Spanish lifestyle she has a late start, a siesta and a late night snooze which are added to her normal long sleeps. Let’s be honest, she’s asleep about 23 hours of every 24!