Background: Siesta has been associated with increased incidence of cardiovascular disease but the mechanism remains unclear. New studies into the relationship between siesta and metabolic syndrome have identified siesta length as a crucial differential, suggesting that siesta less than 40 min is associated with decreased risk of metabolic syndrome, while longer siesta is associated with increased risk. We aimed to investigate the effect of siesta duration on development of metabolic syndrome in a Mediterranean population using a prospective cohort study design. Methods: Our sample consisted of 9161 participants of the SUN cohort without components of metabolic syndrome at baseline. Siesta exposure was assessed at baseline and the development of metabolic syndrome components was assessed after an average 6.8 years of follow-up. We estimated odds ratios and fitted logistic regression models to adjust for potential cofounders including night-time sleep duration and quality, as well as other diet, health, and lifestyle factors. Results: We observed a positive association between average daily siesta > 30 min and development of metabolic syndrome (aOR = 1.39 CI: 1.03-1.88). We found no significant difference in risk of developing metabolic syndrome between the group averaging & LE;30 min of daily siesta and the group not taking siesta (aOR = 1.07 CI: 0.83-1.37). Further analysis suggested that average daily siesta < 15 min may reduce risk of metabolic syndrome. Conclusions: Our study supports the J-curve model of the association between siesta and risk of metabolic syndrome, but suggests the protective effect is limited to a shorter range of siesta length than previously proposed.