To prime the pump for his surrealist paintings (the melting watch, the human leg with a built-in chest of drawers, etc.), the Catalan-born artist used to take — and abort — a nap after lunch. He would sit down with his arms extending beyond the chair’s arms. In one hand he would grasp a key between thumb and forefinger. After he fell asleep, his fingers would relax, the key would fall to the floor, the clatter would wake him up, and he would harvest the wild associations common to the first few minutes of sleep.
While it appears caffeine can keep you awake when sleep deprived, complex cognitive processes do not fare well on this drug. A study compared caffeine with napping and placebo conditions on three memory domains: visual, motor and verbal. On caffeine, verbal and motor skills decreased, whereas napping enhanced performance across all three tasks. Furthermore, a study of caffeine withdrawal showed that the immediate enhancements seen after caffeine abstinence completely disappear with regular use. It appears the perceived benefits of caffeine may be more related to release from withdrawal symptoms rather than actual performance enhancement.
“When we see people napping during lunchtime, we think, ‘They are getting ready to put 100 percent in during the afternoon,’ ” said Paul Nolasco, a Toyota spokesman in Tokyo. “Nobody frowns upon it. And no one hesitates to take one during lunchtime either.”