Siestas, Riposi, and Napping Across Cultures

Napping is a constant across cultures. Explore the benefits of napping and the unique approach different cultures take when getting some extra sleep.


It’s fascinating to look around the world and see similarities even when we live in different communities, speak different languages, and have different interests. Considering all the things that differentiate us, sharing something as simple as a love for napping can unite us in a way that emphasizes how, no matter where we live, there are habits we share.  
While most individuals partake in naps, the cultures and approaches to napping vary based on the community, although they all share the same goal: to boost energy, increase concentration, and improve our mood enough to power through the rest of the day.  
Some cultures make napping a regular part of their day, while others may save it only for tiresome circumstances—one’s view towards napping often stems from the culture they grew up in.   

Napping Customs Across Cultures

Napping offers many benefits. Most notably, if you had a poor night of sleep, it can help to counteract any drowsiness you feel during the day. Even if you slept fine at night, though, napping can offer other benefits.  
Short naps during the day may be enough to boost your work performance, and studies have shown that naps can improve your memory, ability to complete complex tasks, and logical reasoning.  
Napping may also offer health benefits, with one study finding that napping even once or twice a week was associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular problems. Another study found that napping can help relieve stress and support the immune system of those who got limited sleep the night before.  
With all these benefits of napping, it’s no wonder they’re popular across the world, even if they can vary with each culture.  

The Spanish Siesta 

The siesta is one of the most famous midday rests, and while it’s a custom in Spain and other Mediterranean countries, its influence is vast, with people all around the world saying that they could use a siesta.  
The goal of a siesta is to allow people to rest and recharge during the middle of their day, which is typically between 2 pm and 5 pm (although the time varies based on location). In general, a siesta starts around six hours after someone starts their day.  

The Italian Riposo 

Those in Italy also rely on a midday nap, but for them, it’s to help them retreat from the hottest part of the day and rest.  
The timing of riposi varies by location, but they generally occur between 1 pm to 5 pm. In fact, riposi are such a common practice in Italy that many shops close during this time so that shop owners and employees can go home, eat lunch, and then enjoy a riposi before returning to work.  

The Japanese Inemuri 

The Japanese culture is undoubtedly conflicting. Their tea ceremonies and moon viewing (tsukimi) emphasize the importance of slowing down, but Japan is also known for its busy cities and hardworking people. In fact, it’s this hardworking lifestyle that results in Japanese people spending the fewest hours asleep each night compared to other nations. 
How do those in Japan combat these short night hours? By adopting the culture of inemuri, which means “being present while asleep.” With this practice, those in Japan get some sleep whenever they can, such as resting their eyes while riding the bus or while sitting in a park. Whenever they have a few minutes to spare, they rest their eyes, mind, and body.  
This practice of inemuri often leads Japanese workers to take a short power nap at their desks or even during meetings, which is seen as a sign of dedication, not laziness.  

The Icelandic Úti 

While those in the warmer climates of Italy retreat indoors for their naps, those in Iceland and other Scandinavian countries embrace the cold weather and nap outdoors. Even infants join in this practice, as it is believed that napping outdoors helps to build healthy lungs thanks to the fresh air. As a result, it’s not uncommon to see an unattended pram outside a café where an infant is napping, and even daycares hold nap time outside to offer babies this exposure.  
With Icelanders having some of the best life expectancy rates in the entire world, they may be onto something.  

The Chinese Wŭshuì

In China, it’s normal for everyone, no matter their age, to take a mid-day or afternoon nap. Napping at noon, in particular, is encouraged among those who are working or learning because it is believed to fuel creativity and improve concentration. Because of this, employees at large corporations often take a nap after lunch, and some places even offer rentable nap pods where someone can escape for a quick 30-minute nap.  

The United States Power Nap 

While the U.S. used to frown upon napping, it’s starting to become the norm, but with a twist.  
In a culture focused on being as productive as possible, there isn’t much time to spend recharging—enter the power nap. While longer than the Japanese inemuri, it has the same idea: to quickly boost energy, fight fatigue, and increase concentration. In the United States, the power nap typically lasts 10-20 minutes and takes place between 12:30 pm and 2 pm, or whenever someone starts to experience an afternoon slump.  
Some big-name companies have started to embrace the power nap and encourage their employees to nap to boost their productivity and improve their wellness. As more and more companies, and even the U.S. Army, encourage power naps, it will likely become a more widespread habit across the U.S. 

Find Your Napping Groove 

With all the different types of naps across cultures, there are plenty of options for you to try out. Perhaps you like the idea of taking an afternoon siesta to give you a break from your work and the heat of the day, or maybe the idea of napping with the windows open to let in the cold winter air, úti-style, seems more appealing. For those who have busy days, the Japanese culture of inemuri can help you accomplish your tasks while taking any moment you can to rest your body and mind; if you have a bit more time, you may even be able to squeeze in a power nap. 
No matter which napping custom you find yourself favoring, the fact that they are a constant across cultures shows that, no matter where you live, naps are a beneficial addition to your day


Written by

Jessica G

Medical writer freelancer who has written hundreds of articles on varying topics. Masters of Engineering degree in Biomedical Engineering.

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