I’m good at power naps but full-on siestas have never been my thing. The few times I have held longer afternoon naps, I woke up feeling inside out. Like morning was night, up was down and my body felt the way old TV static sounded. So when I was living in Spain in 2006 and my three Spanish roommates regularly slept in the afternoon, I thought there might be something here that I should learn.
One of my roommates became my nap advisor. We usually played chess together and argued about the little things, like whether cuadra or manzana made more sense to refer to a street block. He supported manzana, I came down on the side of cuadra. We seldom agreed but each argument was a treat.
Over the months I slowly assembled a picture of what I had come to understand the secret to a restorative siesta to be.
A minimum of two and a half hours
Lie down on said couch (never the bed, that’s a big no-no!) and gently rock your body back and forth to render the sofa cushion more malleable. It should perfectly mold itself around the contours of your body to create a sort of sofa hug without pressure points, tension or discomfort. Take your time to find a cozy position. This process takes at least twenty minutes and cannot be rushed. Once optimal comfort is achieved, the restorative part of the siesta begins. To be effective, this part should last at least two hours.
A few rules to observe:
A siesta must at all times be held on a couch. Never ever can it be held on a bed. A bed is for night time and other activities only. A siesta is a restful moment that unequivocally requires a sofa. It is also an activity that commands respect. Interrupting a siesta is therefore only acceptable for causas de fuerza mayor, meaning for forces beyond your control. In this context, force majeure is also clearly defined: food and bathroom. For the purposes of siesta-holding, those are the only two acceptable reasons to get up. And it works in various ways. A valid reason not to go to work is: I’m napping. Or so my roommate tried to convince me.
Did it work for me? Yes and no. I woke up feeling rested and satisfied, but never as refreshed as my roommates looked. The feeling of old TV static diminished but never disappeared. I’m a morning person used to waking up hungry and ready to seize the day. After those siestas I woke up feeling the way I’m told night owls feel when they get up early: unresponsive and needing time before being able to eat or drink anything.
What the few siestas I actually held did accomplish though, regardless of how I felt waking up, was to instill a general sense of relaxation that spread to other areas of my life as well. They influenced not just a moment but many surrounding moments, like ripples in a pond.