The Spanish Siesta

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Adam Navis and Anne Muir look at a Spanish tradition, the siesta. Would changing it lead to more sleep and better work?

Voice 1  

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Adam Navis.

Voice 2  

And I’m Anne Muir. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

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Voice 1  

What time do you usually go to bed? How many hours do you sleep each night? Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night?

Voice 2  

Sleeping traditions may be stranger than you know. For example, in the past, some people had two different sleeps every night. They would wake up in the middle of the night to talk or pray or do quiet activities. But today, most people just have one sleep for about eight hours at night. However, there is no correct way to get enough sleep in a day. People around the world have different customs for sleeping at night, and during the day. Today’s Spotlight is on one particular sleep tradition called the siesta.

Voice 1  

Siesta is a Spanish word. It means “nap” or short sleep. In this custom people sleep for a short time after eating their mid-day meal. A sleep like this is often a tradition in places where it is very hot in the middle of the day. People work in the morning and then rest. Then, after their siesta, they go back to work until later in the evening.

Image by Catharina77 from Pixabay
Voice 2  

The siesta is a tradition from Spain. But other places also have this custom, including other Mediterranean countries in Southern Europe. People in countries with Spanish influence may also take siestas, like in the Philippines and some Latin American countries. In this program, we will look at the siesta in Spain and how it may change in the future.

Voice 1  

Normal working hours are different in different places around the world. In some countries, many people start work at 7:00 a.m. – in the morning – and do not come home until 7:00 p.m. – at night. In other countries, workers are expected to work from nine a.m. until five p.m.

Voice 2  

But in Spain, many people start work at 8:00 or 9:00 in the morning. Then offices close for a couple hours in the afternoon at about 2:00. And people go back to work from about five until eight or nine at night.

Voice 1  

This system began when Spain was an agricultural country. Many people worked outside in the field. These workers could not work well in the early afternoon. It was too sunny and hot. So they took a long break after eating lunch until it was cooler. But today, the economy of Spain is no longer mainly agricultural. People do not need to break when it is hot. But some people still take a break in the middle of the day.

Voice 2  

Some people think that the siesta is a good custom. It gives people time to rest in the middle of the day. And there is some scientific evidence that taking naps can make people’s bodies and minds work better. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration or NASA did a famous scientific study in the 1990s. They studied how airplane pilots performed after they took naps and when they did not nap. NASA found that naps provided a 34% increase in pilot performance. Naps also provided a 100% increase in physiological alertness. Of course, not everyone needs to be as alert, or awake and able to react quickly as the pilot of an airplane! But many individuals, organizations and companies are interested in how to make people happy and able to work hard.

Voice 1  

Even though a siesta might be helpful, it does not work for everyone. Some businesses do not let people stop working. Some people live far from the city and cannot go home during the day. Other people use the time to do small personal errands or shopping. The result is that a lot of people in Spain are not getting enough sleep.

Image by Bartłomiej Koc from Pixabay
Voice 2  

The people of Spain also get less sleep because of Spain’s special time. Spain is one hour ahead of the countries around it. In the 1940s, Spain’s leader changed the country’s time to match with Germany. And since then Spain has not changed its official time. The Parliament of Spain studied this issue. They released a document that explained why this was a problem:

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“We sleep almost an hour less than the World Health Organization suggests. All this has a negative effect on productivity, missing days of work, stress, accidents and the rates of people leaving school. Our day is influenced more by the sun than by the clock. We eat at 1:00 in the afternoon and at eight in the evening, by the sun. But the clock says it is 3:00 and 10:00.”

Voice 1  

People in Spain are talking about changing the official time of the country. They are also talking about changing the hours of the working day. This would take away the siesta. The Prime Minister of Spain is Mariano Rajoy. In 2016, he suggested moving the hours of the working day so that people can go home earlier.

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Some people think that this is a good idea. They think that if people end work earlier they will get more sleep. People may also be able to take better care of their families. It can be difficult to care for children in the evening if parents have to work until later.

Voice 1  

Spain has struggled with this problem for a few years. Ignacio Buqueras is a Spanish economist who supports changing working hours. He thinks that without a siesta, Spain will have a better economy that can produce more with less effort. In 2014, he told the New York Times newspaper:

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“We want to see a more efficient culture. Spain has to break the bad habits that have increased over the past 40 or 50 years.

Voice 2  

But siesta time is also very important for the culture of Spain. During the siesta, families take time to eat together. Friends spend hours talking. Without a siesta, this time is gone. There are both good and bad things about siesta time. But one thing is certain – it is difficult to change the schedule of a whole country!

Image by Eida Martinez from Pixabay
Voice 1  

What are normal working hours where you live? Would you take a siesta if you could? You can leave a comment on our website. Or email us at You can also comment on Facebook at

Voice 2  

The writer of this program was Rena Dam. The producer was Michio Ozaki. The voices you heard were from the United States and the United Kingdom. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at This program is called, ‘The Spanish Siesta’.

Voice 1  

Look for our listening app in the Google Play Store and in iTunes. We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.


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Join the discussion

  • The normal working hours in Saudi Arabia it depends on the company maybe 7 hours or 8 hours ,they take siesta(a nap) in the afternoon then they back to work in the evening so it is like spain

  • Hi everyone, I’m Linh from Vietnam. No my country we start work at from 7am to 5pm weekly and we have a good siesta in middle of the day from 11:30 to 13:30 . We work better after take a nap

  • I have enough sleeping hours every day. It’s for about eight hours. In my country people are start working at 8-9 a.m. to 5-6 p.m. And, yes I would take a siesta if I could. Sometimes I need a little sleep in the middle of the day.

  • usually I cut my year in two part “6 months for each part”
    That inspired me to achieving my goals in more energy .

    For nap same thing , it cut my day and make me more inspired for next work

    besides, siesta “nap” is good period for having rest and families meeting

  • Always l weak up at 6 o’clock in the morning. And go to university to study. I back to home in 2 pm. I must take a short nap maybe one or two hour. I think this is an enough time to take a nap because you should weak up and completion your work or anything.

  • I get enough sleep but I sleeping the morning not night Cause I working all the night . In the weekend sleeping all night It is not good I’M tryna fix that

  • Actually I get enough sleep cuz I don’t have work or school most of the day I spend it in the home i think 8 ours is enough to sleep

  • The enough time sleep is very important of health for human, as well as work. in my country Yemen, they are working about 6 hours only from 8 am until 2 pm, but in Turkey the situation is different the work time start from 8 am to 5 pm with an hour of rest from 12:30 to 1:30 for lunch.
    ıf you ask me about my self, 7 hours with a nap that is enough to sleep. I have a custom of sleeping that’s to takek a nap a round half an hour. Actually the nap give a new power and a good rest middle of the day.
    ıf I coud not take a nap ı am felling a tierd, and I can not foucs of my work very well.
    Finally, everyone needs to take an enough time for sleep every day without oversleeping.

  • Our country started working at 8:00 AM or 9:00 AM. I go to bed at 10:00 pm. Siesta is a very good tradition. Unfortunately, there is no Siesta in our country.

  • for Vietnamese , siesta time is so important , like it’s an indispensable time of the day. we would like to spend time taking a nap in the middle of the day after long time working in the morning so that we can work efficiently in the afternoon. You just need only 15 too 20 minutes a day for siesta then i believe you can do your work in a more productive way .

  • Hi ,
    First of all thank you for your several topics.
    Yes i get enough sleep in every night , but the best moment for me in 3 a clock PM .

  • hi everyone I’m gassan I’m from syria but I live Saudi Arabia befor 10 years. – in Saudi
    Arabia there is a person’s work for 6 hours in the day, another person’s working for 8 hours of the day they are working in a company, another person’s working 12 hours these a poor people working any things for life that’s it

    sorry for My a long comment

  • working hours in my country are different based on the companies. my working hours are 8 hours. starting from 8 am to 4 pm. I have one hour for a break. I didn’t take a nap but this break hour is very important for me to take a break from work, eat lunch, talk with my friends in anything outside work. also, this hour makes me back to work with more energy. it renews my energy.

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