Having a bit of a sleep after a meal is one of the big little pleasures of life. It can also improve our sense of well-being. Napping helps digestion, recharges your energy and can improve your reflexes. The few minutes of physical and mental relaxation a nap affords counteract anxiety and stress. They can also increase your creative capacities. That's why companies like Google, Nike and The New York Times all have places in their offices where employees can take a nap.
Napping or having a "siesta" is a Mediterranean tradition which is deeply rooted in Spain. In Spain, there are two different ways of napping. The most common one is the short nap. You make yourself comfortable, close your eyes and doze off without falling into a deep sleep. (This is also the type of nap doctors most recommend.)
The inimitable Dali was a staunch believer in this kind of short half-hour nap. With short naps, the first sign of drowsiness or "nodding off" signals that your muscles are starting to relax. Dali liked to make himself aware of this moment by holding a piece of cutlery in his hand. When it fell out, he knew he was dozing off.
The second kind of nap in Spain is the long nap. It requires actually getting into bed and sleeping for more than an hour. This version has its detractors who insist sleeping during the day triggers insomnia at night. Despite these objections, the long nap remains the preferred option in Andalusia. During public holidays there, it’s common for people to darken the room and get into their pyjamas as well as bed to take nap. Of course on holidays, celebrating and staying up all night naturally leads to a nap like this at some point...
NASA is the most recent scientific organisation to praise the benefits of napping. They stress that it provides an incomparable sense of well-being. The ideal nap, according to NASA, should about twenty-six minutes to be precise. . . not one minute more or one minute less.