Friday, February 17, 2012

Living Here: The Art of the Siesta

Some people are very casual about their siesta

I think that taking a good siesta is an art.

The traditional afternoon siesta developed for good reasons. Napping is a great way to escape the worst heat of the day and refresh one's self for the evening ahead.

Some people, like the guy pictured above, just casually plop down for a little rest in the afternoon. That's great and it works, but I think a siesta can be something more. There's a technique to having a really good siesta.

First, you don't want to sleep too long, or you wake sleep-drunk and spend too much time recovering your energy and focus. And there's nothing wonderful about waking up at dinnertime and realizing that you've accidentally slept a whole beautiful afternoon away.

However when the siesta is too short, I find it unsatisfying. I don't simply lay down. I make it special, and here are a few of my guidelines.

Although it's tempting, don't take a rest immediately after lunch. Stay up and get a little exercise first. It's better for your digestion. You'll rest easier.

Take off your clothes. Especially if the weather is warm, this is a good idea. It's more comfortable, and your clothes will feel fresher when you put them on again.

If daytime sounds bother you, create white noise. Soft music or a fan are good for this. Silence the phones to ensure quality time. If you are serious about your siesta, you've got to make sure there are no interruptions.

Try taking your siesta in a hammock or another place different from where you sleep at night. I think this signals mind and body that it's just a siesta, not a full overnight sleep and makes it easier to get up.

My favorite place for a empty beach house
Unless you are good at cat napping, set an alarm, and get up when it goes off. For me, 30 - 60 minutes is the perfect length for a siesta. However if you wake up after 20 minutes and feel good, go ahead and get up.

Jumping in a pool or having a cool rinse-off in the shower after a siesta really helps get the afternoon off to a good start. If you like caffeine, have a cup of coffee or tea. I like to drink my cup of hot coffee in the pool. On afternoons when I am having a hard time getting up, the dangling carrot of a cup my of favorite beverage in the cooling water helps get me vertical.

I find that the sleep of siestas is often deep, dreamless and less restless than at night. Taking a good siesta doesn't necessarily help me stay up later at night, but the quality of my evening improves when I have rested.

That's what works for me. Of course, here I am talking about siestas taken alone. The art of the siesta -- accompanied -- can be something altogether different. I am not sure I am prepared to write about that, in this blog, at least. But you'll know it if I do.


  1. I am going to laminate these instructions and tack them up by my future hammock. I hate afternoons, and can't think of a better way to avoid them than closing my eyes.

    1. Well, Lee, I suppose each has to develop his/her own way of doing it, but I thought these ideas, discovered through trial and error, would help most people.

      It sounds as if you might be taking longer PM siestas than I usually do. Nothing wrong with that. I know plenty of folks, mostly Mexican, who take a good siesta but then eat quite late and stay up until well after midnight on a regular basis. I guess they've become accustomed to taking their "eight hours" in two sessions, something I can't manage to do.

  2. We plan to have hammock hooks installed when we are there in April. Can you believe the previous owners did not have a hammock?

    I love an afternoon siesta and take one almost every day. I never thought about having coffee while in the pool, but I'm liking the idea, especially this time of year when the water is quite cold.

    Keep 'em coming Marc. I'm taking notes.

    1. I've noticed that foreigners renovating old homes sometimes take hammock hooks out, or if building new, do not think to put any in. I left all the hooks in my place, and put a new set in a newly-built room. The nice thing about having hooks in every room is that you can move hammocks around, depending upon the season, time of day, your mood, or the number of guests you may have. They also can make good places to hang art, and things like masks, hats and umbrellas, I've found.

      Ok, gotta go. It's that time of the afternoon...

  3. If taking a siesta is an art, then there is hope yet that I might learn to be an artist! Great post, and great advice.

    1. Everyone is an artist at something...maybe you'll find your niche.

  4. Good advice even up here in Sitka. T and I have gotten into the habit of a daily nap about 1 pm or so and for the amount of time you specify. We usually walk back from the hosppital salad bar then plop down so the exercise part is there too. I would add turning off all cell phone and wireless devices in the house to nullify EMF pollution too. A hundred years ago we didn't get bombarded by EMF radiation like we do now and I wonder how much it affects sleeping. And we get up and have a afternoon cup of coffee. Guess Alaska and Mexico are not that far apart. Hope your parents are well and content? Best wishes from latitude 57.

  5. I love siesta! I've got one of the matrimonial size hammocks. It is solid green. When I'm enveloped, I feel like a dreaming catepillar.

  6. What a great post. Gringa Dog and I siesta every afternoon, in a hammock. We already follow your advice with one important addition, I always wear my eyemask, it makes it dark and restful. However, Gringa dog doesn't wear a mask, she seems to fully enjoy her time in the hammock and within seconds she is snoring. Hammocks are truly magical!

  7. Learned a new (to me) expression recently: I was asked if I "sleep siesta," as you describe. I sure like to, if I have the chance. I asked if everyone still does, and was told it is more of a custom among older residents than for younger people. Do you know if that's the case?
    As for your coy reference to siesta a deux, I wonder if that's got anything to do with why Yucatecans somehow seem happier than people in other places?

  8. I like using the hammock for siestas. I cannot sleep long when I am suspended. I get the rest. And then I am on my way. No alarm required.

  9. I love "siestaring" in my hammock. It is the best way. I like your comment that your body knows that it is only a siesta when you lie in your hammock, rather than lie on your bed, and that you will need to wake up again..... soon! I have written an article about how to sleep in a mayan hammock on my website.

  10. I think one of the reasons I love Mexico is the acceptance of the siesta as a legitimate way to spend an hour or two in the afternoon. It is the only place I have taken a real one, though I nap occasional NOB. And as you said, in the tropical climate, when the afternoon's just a little too hot for comfort, napping unclothed with a fan blowing nearby is the perfect escape. Love this post. Took me home for a bit.


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