Spain’s traditional diet — loaded with fish, vegetables, and olive oil — is thought to be great for your heart. But another Spanish tradition might be even better: the siesta.

Scientists say that daily power naps — on the order of 45 minutes or more — may help protect the heart from emotional wear and tear and serve as a natural stress buster.

Grandad Slept More

As viewers of the popular TV show Mad Men know, people in the 1960s dressed better, with guys in sharp slim suits and ladies in elegant pastel-colored dresses. But what viewers might not know is that people slept better back then, too. Thanks to modern-day working hours and late-night TV and computer habits, people now get about 1½ to 2 hours less sleep per night than their grandparents did. And doctors think this sleeplessness — coupled with more stressful lifestyles — takes a toll on heart health. (Related: Want to get smarter? Hit the snooze button.)

Siesta Time

A possible antidote to sleep-deprived lives? Power naps. They’re baked into the culture in Spain, where people routinely take a daily afternoon siesta. And a recent study suggests that a napping habit may be a super-fine health idea for everyone. In the study, researchers gave college students a tricky math problem that caused their mean arterial blood pressure to go up — a sure sign of heart stress. But the students’ blood pressure recovered more quickly in those who had taken a 45–60 minute nap before getting the test. In other words, the nappers’ hearts were better prepared to weather stress—talk about a great stress buster!

Napping Rules

If you’re able to fit power naps into your schedule, make sure you do it right. You don’t want your daytime shut-eye to interfere with your nighttime slumber.