Siesta, from Latin, translates to “Sixth Hour”, or midday. This reflects the practice of shutting down business, eating a large meal and taking a 2-3 hour nap, particularly in areas with very warm climates, like Spain and Italy.
For me, this was not a cultural issue, but a personal one.
Having my first child introduced me to the concept of serious napping.
I remember what friends told me at the time about how they managed their life with a newborn. There was a lot of well-meaning advice that was shared about what they each could do while the baby was sleeping. Some wrote letters, some paid bills, many did their housekeeping tasks; cooking, cleaning,etc. Some used the time to talk on the phone with friends, or catch up on the book or soaps they had left behind.
As for me, I slept. Every chance I got.
I was able to successfully nurse both of my children until teeth made it cumbersome somewhere around 9-10 months of age. The process was beneficial to both mom and baby, gifting them with what seemed to be a healthy immune system. The process was also physically exhausting; there were times when we were both sleeping by the time the breast became disengaged.
When he could, my husband was very watchful of this, thinking he might find us both on the floor one day. It didn’t happen. But it did make me get serious about naps, and forced me to deal with signs of exhaustion.
The way I dealt with sleep deprivation in the past was to simply ignore it. There were times, and more than just a few, that I actually caught myself asleep at the wheel. I must have had some sort of guardian angel to have avoided tragedy, or at least a collision. I was working 10-12 hour days in a factory during the summer months, saving as much as I could for college. When I finally left the physically demanding job, my comfy car seat was very inviting on the 10 mile drive home.
There were times during college where I would go for months with 3-4 hours of sleep a night. I graduated with high honors and a 3.77 GPA, but at great cost to my sleep hygiene. This set me up for a pattern of self abuse that abruptly stopped when I became a mom.
When my son was born a few years later, we welcomed him into our world of afternoon napping. Their timing was truly a blessing. We all three would sleep for at least an hour or two up until the time they went off to Kindergarten.
Time passed; school continued. I stayed home for quite a while, almost 10 years before going back to a paying job.
I broke my foot, had to take leave from work for 3 months. Pain meds kept me up at night, and I was re-introduced to the nap I had missed for a very long time.
To this very day, I am respectful of and attendant to the signs of exhaustion. And I never, ever pass up the chance to take a nap, especially in the vulnerable hour of 3 p.m.
When my adult daughter now comes home for a visit, she always remarks about her ability to nap in her old bedroom. She is always surprised how easy the sleep comes. I am not.
And for that, to her, I am forever grateful.