It’s my favorite weekend of the year because it is the end of Daylight Savings–that extra hour we get when we set our clocks back is the best present of all. I’m here to suggest you put it to productive use: Take a nap. Crawl under the covers and think of yourself for once. You deserve it!
I know I’ll be celebrating that way. I don’t have too many worries in the napping department. On the contrary, I could write a book on “Women Who Nap Too Much,” except I don’t think there can be such a thing.
I’m coming out of the covers to say I love to sleep. If there are others out there, who are awake, roll over and be counted. Call me lazy, indolent, indulgent, but I find sleeping to be a pleasurable and productive pastime. My love for sleep is not something new. Even as a child I could not join with the other kids in discussing the Saturday morning cartoon shows because I preferred to sleep through them.
It’s not just with sleeping late that I have racked up frequent flyer miles to the Land of Nod. There is nothing better than a good nap to put a new blush on the day. When those who practice meditation speak of reaching nirvana, I can understand what they mean though I could never reach it in the lotus position.
A nap is a wonderful intermission in the acts of our day. As long as I can get a little piece of mattress between the hours of 8 and 6, I am happy with my performance.
The best nap is one that starts in daylight and ends in twilight; the curtain then opens with new lighting. This is a sentiment I found echoed in a 1999 Poets & Writers interview with author and editor Pete Hamill, “But what I realized that was very helpful to me was the strategy of the nap. You come home from whatever job . . . then you take a nap. Let the subconscious get rid of all the [BS] you put up with. You get a second morning. These days the great thing is to take a nap through the evening news so your brain isn’t clouded up with all kinds of arguments and lousiness from the real world.” I kept that quote all these years because Mr. Hamill spoke to me.
As recent as 2012, in a BookReporter.com interview, Mr. Hamill repeated this message, when he was asked: “You were doing a column at the time these stories were written. Was it difficult to be switching gears between short fiction and journalism?” He replied, “No. I had learned to trust the wonders of The Nap. I’d come home from covering a trial or a political gathering, and then think about the short story I was mulling. I’d take a nap. When I woke up, I had a second morning, and somehow the sub-conscious had worked on the story while it was marinating. And I knew the tone. And saw and heard the people.”
But pm naps aren’t the only ones that can clear the head. A morning nap seems more indulgent and the napper must first get over the guilt of putting off things that should be done. But with practice you may become able to overcome this guilt as you put the world on hold. Each inhalation and exhalation seems to whisper “Wait.” When you wake up for the second time, life’s kinks may have worked themselves out; and if they haven’t, at least you’re in a better frame of mind to tackle them.
I napped while a thunderstorm raged. I could hear a diorama of sound: above, the ominous thunder, furling and cracking; closest to me, a rope of rainwater coiling down the downspout and the metallic spatter of drops hitting the aluminum siding; further in the background, the trees swished and rain plinked in puddles. Later, when I imagined it clearing, a lone chickadee sounded a tentative call. I don’t think I would have noticed all this had my eyes been open. When I did wake for the second time that day, it was with a new appreciation and clarity.
To me, napping and getting plenty of sleep are healthy behaviors. Research shows we are getting significantly less sleep than we did 100 years ago. Oh the good old days. Our closest evolutionary cousin, the chimpanzee, sleeps ten hours per night. Maybe we could learn from the animals.
Just think about napping once a day for a half hour (or sleeping 30 minutes earlier or later each day). In a year, you’d be assured of some 10,000 minutes well spent–delicious. There’s no better rejuvenator.
Sleep debt slows reaction time and decision-making, affects attention, and impairs memory and logical thinking. All in all, research backs me when I say a nap makes you more reasonable and smarter. If you doubt me, just Google “power naps,” and you’ll find lots of evidence.
Best of all, sleep doesn’t cost a cent.
I know lots of you are busy and life’s demands don’t allow you to nap on a usual day. But today you have that extra hour. It’s yours to spend.
Why not draw the shades on those mirrors to the soul, put out the Do Not Disturb sign, and let yourself go. Make a little offering to that underrated god, Hypnos, gentle son of the Night. Slumber a while, you’ll like it.
Peace, love, and solace
(This is a reprint of a post first made in November 2014–thanks for reading).