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Siestas: Just a Spanish quirk? And why do they do it? National Sleep Society explains
19 July 2021 @ 10:58

ONE word which is always instantly associated with Spain – and which even people who do not speak Spanish understand – is 'siesta', and many nationalities, including people from Spain itself, have often questioned why this is the case; how is it that this seems to be the only country where the inhabitants take a siesta?

“Very few stereotypes linked to our culture have stood the test of time the way the siesta has,” says the Spanish Sleep Society (SES).

But it is not just a 'Spain' thing; siestas are part of the tradition wherever the Roman Empire was present, even if few people practise it – and, in fact, only a tiny minority of Spanish people do so.

“The Romans stopped for lunch and to rest in the sixth hour of the day,” explains Juan José Ortega of the SES.

“And if we take into account that there are approximately 12 hours of daylight, give or take and depending upon where you are in the world, then in Spain, the sixth hour would be around 13.00 in the winter and about 15.00 in summer.”

The Romans called this time of the day the sexta, or 'sixth', which when Italian as a language developed from Latin, morphed into sesta.

Although 'sixth' in the Spanish language, in the feminine – since 'hour' or hora is a feminine noun – is sexta (in the masculine, it would be sexto), the word for the lunchtime nap is a Spanish variation of sesta.

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