If you know me at all, you know that I nap every afternoon about two o’clock. It’s almost a religious ritual, and very few things can keep me from my nap. Tell me there’s an event at two o’clock, and I’m likely to send my regrets. Sometimes I feel a bit guilty about it or self-indulgent, but I have decided to conquer those feelings.
I come from a family of nappers. My dad, a physician and hospital administrator, walked a mile home for lunch every day and then took a twenty-minute power nap. When my brother, also a physician, first retired he took three or four naps a day, and I still hesitate to call him between one and five, because his nap time is more fluid than mine.
When my kids were little, I required afternoon naps almost until they went to school. Some were good nappers and slept soundly; others not so much, but they were required to take a “body rest.” Sometimes they fell asleep in spite of themselves.
When I worked full time, my naps were confined to weekends, but I was still faithful about them. In the eleven years I’ve been retired, I’ve missed very few naps. I work hard in the mornings—it’s my best time—and about two I begin to get unbearably sleepy.
Sleep researchers generally agree on the importance of naps, though several various reasons are offered. One study shows that a nap restores alertness, prevents burnout, heightens sensory perception, reduces the risk of heart disease, and makes you more productive. Another suggests it increases your patience and lowers blood pressure. For me, I know that I often just drowse and do some of my best thinking when I’m napping. Ideas come, and when I get up, I’m refreshed and ready to write.
How long should you nap? Some experts suggest that there are four kinds of naps—the short power nap that my dad took. The half hour nap that leaves you groggy. The hour-long “short” nap, and the ninety-minute one, where you get some good REM sleep and go from deep sleep to dreams. On a good day, I do sleep an hour and a half and dream wildly—but then I dream at night and remember those dreams. And if I sleep soundly in the afternoon, I don’t always leap right out of bed—I lie there and contemplate, unless Sophie insists she’s ready to go out.
All this is on my mind because I didn’t get a good nap today. The yard guys came right at two, which involves the noise of their machines plus Sophie’s indignant barking that they dare invade our property. So it was maybe two-thirty before I lay down. Then it sounded to me like planes at Carswell (okay I guess I mean LTV) were revving their engines. That was followed by the neighbors’ yard crew who always come early on Tuesday morning but broke their routine today. Their appearance requires more indignant barking from Sophie.
So a little after four I dragged myself out of bed—yes, I get in the bed, under the covers—knowing I hadn’t slept. The funny thing is that maybe I had slept and didn’t know it. I remember as a child telling my mom I lay awake all night, and she assured me that I slept and didn’t realize it. I also used to tell her I itched all over, and she’d tell me that was a sign I was about to fall asleep. Clever woman, my mom.
Back to this afternoon, I got up feeling tired and have had no ambition this evening. Good thing I had leftovers for dinner. I truly think that nap makes a difference. There’s a possibility though that it’s better not to try to nap than to try and get up frustrated. But I’ll keep trying.
Please don’t call me between two and four in the afternoon.