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Spanish courses in Bilbao
July 27, 2023
Alice Romaniello

The origin of the siesta: cultural exponents in Spanish courses

If you have stayed in Spain for some time, you will have heard of the so-called siesta: a custom which consists of resting for a few minutes or a couple of hours, after having had lunch, with the aim of gathering energy for the rest of the day.

But what are the origins of this tradition? And what benefits does it bring?

First, it is important to point out that the siesta is not only done in Spain but also in parts of Southern Europe and Spanish America, in China, Taiwan, the Philippines, India, the Middle East and North Africa.

Its origin most likely dates back to Ancient Rome. At that time, the day was divided into 12 hours and The sixth hour", from which the term siesta derives, corresponded to the middle of the day, the central hour in which the light struck harder and was warmer. For this reason, this hour was used for rest.

If we refer more concretely to the origin of the siesta in Spain, we can say that it begins after the Civil War, where it was very common for a worker to have more than one job to support his family. Therefore, noon, the hottest hour was the time to eat and rest, and thus be able to have the energy needed to finish the working day.

Actually, the origin of this custom has a biological explanation. It is a natural consequence of low blood flow after eating, as most of the body's blood goes to the stomach for proper digestion. .

There are many advantages of the siesta. First of all, it prevents heart disease: it reduces stress and the risk of cardiovascular disease by 37%. This is because lack of sleep increases cortisol and an excess of this hormone increases intolerance to glucose and fat and decreases growth hormone levels, which can lead to diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Then the siesta reduces blood pressure and heart rate.Finally, the siesta brings benefits from a cognitive point of view: it facilitates learning and improves concentration. . A study from the University of Berkeley ensures that those who take a nap perform better in the afternoon and increase their learning ability by ten percent. This is because sleep facilitates the storage of short-term memory and makes room for new data. During sleep, recent memories are transferred from the hippocampus to the neocortex, our hard drive, where long-term memories are consolidated.

Finally, taking a siesta stimulates creativity and makes it easy to solve problems. Robert Stickgold, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, has found that when subjects reach REM sleep (the phase of high brain activity in which we dream), it takes less time for them to make different connections between ideas.

Therefore, perhaps by reading this article you may have found some more reason to take a siesta in the afternoon.

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