In some parts of the world, life practically comes to a grinding halt in the early afternoon. People head home from work for a siesta, as it’s known in Spain, or a riposo, as it’s called in Italy. Whether that means a short nap of 20 minutes (the traditional meaning of the word siesta) or a major mid-afternoon break varies from one country to another. But in many parts of the world—including Greece, the Philippines, Mexico, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Nigeria—naps are seamlessly woven into the tapestry of everyday life.
The tradition began as a necessity in some parts of the world, where, in the afternoon, the heat reaches its peak and it becomes too hot to be outside. That temperature climb combined with a heavy mid-day meal would send residents retreating to the comforts of home, where they could take a rest and wait for the heat to ease up. Over time, different cultures have tweaked the napping habit to suit their preferences. Some examples:
In China: Workers often take a break after lunch and put their heads on their desks for an hour-long nap. It’s considered a Constitutional right.
In Italy: The riposo may begin anytime between noon and 1:30pm and run until 2:30pm to 4:00pm. Businesses shut down, and public venues like museums and churches lock their doors so their employees can go home for a leisurely lunch and a snooze.
In Spain: The siesta is deeply ingrained, as businesses often close for hours to accommodate the mid-day rest. While the siesta can span two hours, only a fraction of the time is actually spent napping; first, there’s lunch with family and friends, then a rest. Because of the mid-day break, people often work later into the evening.
In the U.S., napping isn’t quite a cultural tradition—at least not yet. But we’re gradually moving closer to that lifestyle. Some big-name companies (like Google) are becoming increasingly nap-friendly, largely because they believe that it increases productivity.