On Taking Naps and Being President

Posted on January 31, 2021


I am the same age as President Biden and require a nap, or a siesta in the language I learned as a child growing up in Lima, Peru, to function. There, I’ve said it: Expressed a fact that I think is nearly irrefutable.

If you are a friend or acquaintance with President Biden, please share this with him, preferably after his daily siesta which I recommend as absolutely necessary not only for his own health, but since he’s the President of the U. S., for the health of the nation as well.

I looked up naps of course even though I know they are—especially after lunch—indispensable to my wellbeing, and the wellbeing of President Joe as well. By well-being I mean the ability to function as a normal human being, not some drugged zombie struggling to stay awake before a couch draws him into its embrace.

Siestas are of course rather well known in the Hispanic and Latin American world. When I was working in the Archive of the Indies in Seville, Spain many years ago (for you guys who like to count years, I was there from 1970-1971), the archive would close around noon and not reopen until around 4 p.m. Everyone went home or someplace to eat and rest and/or sleep.

Seville, in Southern Spain in the province of Andalucía, can get really hot in the summertime. Since I am writing in Alabama, I don’t have to suggest to you how hot it can get in this climate. Forget air conditioning. Siestas predate even electricity.

So sevillanos took a long siesta, especially after a big lunch where most of your blood was dragged away from your head to your stomach to digest the gambas al ajillo or gazpacho or a big plate of paella valenciana, washed down with a glass or two of cold dry sac sherry, or fino. A nice, maybe half hour, nap is a lot more conducive to your system than returning to your desk to push apps on your computer, groggy and cranky from having to stay awake after your lunch.

And, of course, modern students have analyzed this phenomenon in minute detail, to the point of making me wonder why everything that is good for you has to be analyzed to death.

These notes were posted by “Layla” on the Internet under the title of “The Benefits of Naps.” Here is here list, shortened for our column.

  • Naps help you recharge. Benefits include enhanced motor skills (enhanced motor skills?), better attention span (amen), energy boost (as good as coffee), and increase in your learning capacity and memory consolidation. The Prez will need this as dozens of people accost him every day with requests, and for decisions, and he can only delegate so many to Kamala, who may need a nap or two herself.
  • Shorter naps are preferable to long naps of an hour or longer.
  • Naps may reduce stress. Something about neuroendocrine and immune systems benefit. In English, not doctor-speak, you feel better.
  • Naps may improve mood. Of course, the great benefit of a siesta.
  •  Naps boost memory and learning improvement. Well, maybe, but I think my IQ stayed pretty much the same. But it was refreshed.

Then Layla has a long list of what “Naps Can’t Do,” but we’ll omit most of that as overkill in research. She even analyzes, or draws upon studies, that suggest how long a successful nap should last: 20 minutes? 90 minutes? She also has sections on how to take a good nap, like sleep during the early afternoon (siesta hour), and others.

The Spanish weren’t necessarily the pioneers in siestas. The Japanese have a habit of taking power naps, inemuri, that’s been around at least for the last 1000 years.

Who has benefited from naps? Try Albert Einstein, Aristotle, and Salvador Dali, countless Capuchin monks and many others over the ages, enjoying greater creativity, focus, and rest from their siestas.

So, President Joe, get into the rhythm of your nap. I would suggest after lunch, and no longer than thirty minutes. You are, after all, the President who has a lot of responsibilities.

Many of your critics predict you won’t last, not so much on account of your age but because of the level and magnitude of the issues and people you have face. Nap a little longer if you want. Or, shorter. I find twenty minutes of siesta time, regardless of whether I fall truly asleep, as about perfect.

My Chihuahua Abby and my Golden Doodle Stanley sometimes join me. Good company in your siesta time seems to improve your mood also.

Have a nice afternoon Mr. President. And don’t let all those ladies trying to boss your around into forgoing your siesta. Tell them to go get their own to improve their disposition.

Published as “Naps make everyone feel better, even the President” in The Tuscaloosa News, Sunday, Jan. 31, 2021.

Posted in: Life in America