Why You Should Nap

My name is Emily and I’ve been napping for 25 years.

I have no quandary about this particular feature of my life. This is how I live.

Basically, I think naps are fucking great and I think they can make you an even more fucking great person if you take them. So basically, that’s it in a nutshell. But I’ll expound for the sake of non-brevity… Besides, I’ve got to make it look like I actually did something more than just take my dog to the park today and watch him instigate little doggie fights. Although, that has been the highlight of my day. (He’s such a jerk. It must come from his father’s side.)

Anyway…

Someone once told me that she had a nanny who she felt sort of judged her for taking naps during the day while she watched her kids. I can understand that feeling– people have judged me for taking naps too, I’m sure. But I’m not embarrassed about it. It’s what I need. No shame for sleep. It’s part of being human. And I’m all about embracing my humanity.

I think we’ve got to reclaim our personalities, our creativity, and our productivity– not in spite of naps, but through of them.

I’m not sure I was ever much of a closet napper (too confining), but I know there are some of you out there. The truth of the matter is, there’s shame around napping. For my part, I’m a little unsure of why more people aren’t willing to acknowledge this awesome gift from god. (You know like sex… but only after marriage, of course. 😉 )

I love to take naps. Let me just put that out there. I know that’s kind of taboo, since I’m over the age of five. But I don’t care. (So there! Neahhh)

I love napping and I think naps are great for me in basically every conceivable way.

I feel lucky to have the flexibility of schedule where I can nap during the days if need be. I’ve had it the other way. In fact, that’s how I’ve spent the majority of my life; where come hell or no sleep, I would have to sludge through my day, barely able to find two brain cells to rub together, and going like a frog from lilly pad to lilly pad (except mine were cups of coffee).

I remember what that was like, and I understand that conundrum. Luckily, it’s largely avoidable for me at this point. However, I don’t take it for granted as a huge blessing– that I am able to get enough sleep in my life, basically on demand.

I know most people think of naps as a luxury. But I think of them (at least, their availability in the case of emergency) as the breath of life. I simply don’t think that “luxury” is the most logical category under which sleep could fall. To me, sleep is the second necessity, just behind water. And to feel guilty about getting the amount of sleep you need, even to the detriment of almost anything else in your life, is like feeling bad about stopping to grab water after running a marathon or chugging beers all night (either/or).

And look, I’m big into productivity. If I don’t feel I’m being productive by doing something, I basically won’t do it. And if I’m having a weird day, and I start getting things done, I automatically feel uplifted. I would usually much rather work than socialize. I am so productivity-driven.

But– sleep takes the cake for me every time. If I have to drop what I’m doing, even if it seems weird (the other day I was stranded at someone’s house and I was JUST about to ask them if I could take a nap there, but suddenly my super hero sister came and picked me and the puppy up). I’m at the point in my life where I’m starting to do what I want and not really care what people think about it– at least, not let it affect it to the point where I won’t do what I need to do for myself.

Because after enough times in my life of pushing through on little sleep, I’ve finally got the equation down. And it’s like this: if I don’t sleep, my life seems to suck, kind of no matter what’s actually going on. Conversely, if I get enough sleep, my life seems awesome… kind of no matter what’s actually going on. Getting sleep changes my outlook to rosy. Not getting sleep, well, you get the idea.

When I’m tired, the world looks bleak. I lose my perspective. I may seem composed on the outside, but on the inside I’m right there with the kid having the temper tantrum in the toy store. It’s anything but bliss. As a rule, I am not a great person when I’m tired. It’s like my awesomeness has a half-life based on the amount of sleep I do or don’t get. My personality, kindness, and basically any other positive thing I could contribute to the world are the first things to vanish when I’m not on enough sleep.

I can solve most of my problems by sleeping. I also love my dreams (I’ll have to save that for another post). Who doesn’t love their own dreams? I guess that’s not very original of me to say. Anyway, the point isn’t dreams. It’s sleep. And how important it is.

Although I love getting things done, I never forget how important sleep is. I couldn’t– the side effects, should I digress from my normal sleep quantity, are always there to remind me.

Not based on what experts say (although that’s rather obviously an important component of one’s health) and not because as babies and kids, my dad insisted our sleep schedule remain more locked down than NSA documents, and probably not even because my family is a family of nappers (but when I got older, my grandma finally had to point out to me that my parents weren’t always “sleeping” during their “naps”); the thing is, I know it from experience. If I don’t get the sleep I need, the day cannot be the best possible day for me.

And I live my life every day, to have the best possible day. It’s all along that whole line of living each day like it’s your last. Well, if it was my last day on earth, and I was super tired, I’d either be dabbling with white powder or taking a nap. But naps are better for your long-term health, so on a daily basis, I’d recommend the latter.

I literally base my life on and around my sleep. It seems like the only logical thing to me. Once I get it, I can forget it. But if I don’t, I’m stuck reminded of my poor choice for the next moments of my waking existence.

If I don’t sleep well, I don’t have a great day. It’s really that simple. Sleep is of the utmost importance in my life. Sometimes it’s hard, because we just want to keep going. But sometimes the absolute best thing you can do for your body and your mind, is to give it a rest (literally). My naps are like downloading sunshine and optimism straight onto my mental hard drive. Everything looks better on the other side of a nap.

I met this awesome lady a few days ago (at the dog park– where I meet at least one new stranger every day) and it was one of those things where we just clicked right away, and told each other our life stories. You know, for some reason that happens to me a lot. Anyway, one of the things that seems so mundane but that we really bonded over was the fact that we both have experienced guilt about napping. And we are both two people who consider themselves nappers. Talking to her made me realize that A) we are both awesome B) we both need naps C) maybe I’m a little biased in this assessment, but sometimes awesome people need to take naps.

Now, I don’t always need to nap. If I get my solid nine or so hours of sleep, I don’t do it. But, I know I’m weird like this: I need my brain to function. Not only do I need to get sleep to feel happy and be the best person I can, I also need it to write or read. Mostly, I need it to write. I cannot be very productive if I spend the entire day trying to get things done through a mental haze thicker than greek yogurt (why does that sound so disgusting?). I’m much better off taking a chunk of time off from doing and simply taking a nap. Even if it’s just a twenty minute power nap people are always talking about! Although, I tend to just let myself sleep until I need it– but that’s also because I usually can stay up late to correct it after, and adjust my schedule accordingly.

But either way, no matter how you slice it, one hour of well-rested work is better than four of zombie-trudging through life.

There are some people who make do with less sleep, like people with young kids (maybe people with kids at all). At this point in my life, I currently cannot imagine loving something or someone so much that I would relinquish my ability to sleep as needed without going insane or shipping them off FED EX air mail. When debating having kids, sleep is always the first thing I consider. Then, I quickly search out the nearest form of birth control.

Everyone needs different amounts, and some people aren’t nappers (I truly can’t imagine what that would be like, but I wish you all the best). However, if you are a napper, there’s no shame in it. Don’t be embarrassed about what your body needs. We’re all encumbered with bodies here on earth and it’s up to us to be the best landlords we can (directly, for our own benefit). It’s so amazing how we keep these little-kid mind sets throughout our adult lives.

We’ll sit there and explain to our own kids why they need to nap (hopefully, you’re not stuck reasoning with an over-tired kid about the merits of proper sleep hygiene) but we ourselves judge when we nap. Kids fight naps for many reasons, but one of them is the idea that big kids don’t do it. And grown ups certainly don’t. It’s considered immature and babyish– most kids would rather play than nap. And many grown ups would rather play or deny their need for one, than to actually force their tired selves into supine position.

I know kids are growing and don’t have bills to pay and their parents need a break from them and all that, so for them, taking naps, just makes sense. But my own mental development (or maintenance, at this point) is basically my biggest priority in life. I napped this morning and I woke up feeling exactly how I wanted to feel. And yes, sometimes it’s frustrating to hang up the proverbial towel and tuck yourself in mid-day, when there are so many fun things you’d rather be, or should be, doing.

But the alternative is that you’re a crankier, hungrier, less productive, less nice, and less of all the other good things (and more of all the other not-so-good ones) version of you when you don’t take care of yourself via sleep.

I think it’s rather dim-witted to make oneself a sleep martyr. Besides all the reasons listed above, it’s just plain unhealthy for your body (ignoring all of the annoying side effects) to burn the candle at both ends, as my mom would say. (Hey mom! Let’s hang out this weekend!)

It’s become ubiquitous in our culture: always saying how we don’t get enough sleep (no doubt made more difficult by the fact that we’re surrounded by light and technological devices roughly twenty four hours a day). And yet, despite our desperate and even cognizant, need for more sleep, we still have this stigma against napping in our culture.

Other cultures are not so pig-headed about pitting themselves against counting sheep. Other cultures don’t play sleep-deprived-samurai mental games. Some other cultures even take naps during the work day [!] In their offices [!!!]. And they don’t think it’s cooler or more bad-ass that you are walking around on four hours of sleep, instead of the generally-agreed upon eight (or in my case, nine).

Even the notoriously work-a-holic Japanese sometimes take naps during the day. And today, I just saw an article that said naps are the new trend in productivity. Um… Duh. Why keep people awake who desperately need some goddamn sleep? Give them an hour or less of what looks like total laziness, and you’ll more than make it back in their increased ability to, oh, I don’t know– do their jobs? It’s revolutionary, I agree.

I don’t actually sleep more than people who don’t nap (well, anyone else who consistently needs nine hours of sleep) but I just break up my sleep into timing that is more convenient– or in my case, more natural. I do best with nine hours, divided among two sleep times for every twenty four hours. My body wants its nine hours, whether it’s seven here and two there, or however I combine it. I naturally gravitate to the same amount of time asleep.

So I stopped worrying that I would have less waking hours, or get less done, simply because I broke up my sleep in a different way than the norm. I haven’t found that to be true. In fact, I usually feel better with a nap, because then I get to wake up refreshed twice in one day instead of once. For me, in terms of sleep and productivity, if I’m going to sleep the same number of hours, breaking it up into two segments actually gives me a fresher head, more often, than simply sleeping in one large block. I don’t know what the sleep scientists would say about any of that, but that’s what I like best at this point.

I think we’ve got to realize that napping doesn’t make you lazy; for me, it’s directly related to the quantity and quality of what I’m actually able to accomplish, as well as the quality of my mind set. I’ve got no pride– if I need to nap, I’m going to do it. I refuse to sludge through life half-assed. I don’t always want to nap– usually there’s a million other things I’d rather be doing. But I recognize that my quality of awareness is greatly compromised when I’m working on less than-optimal sleep.

Reclaim the nap, reclaim your life. It’s your birthright to feel well-rested. That’s why it feels so fucking good to sleep and wake up from a good sleep– we are biologically programmed to feel pleasure from taking care of ourselves, and sleep is no exception.

Naps are like the great illusion. They are not as they appear. They might seem lazy and unproductive– at first. But what comes after them: truly mathematical.

Bottom line: a life refreshed is a life worth living.