Saturday, September 27, 2008

Working The Kinks Out Of The Afternoon Nap

Reprinted from Grand Times
Copyright 2008 Elliott Joseph

October 2008

I was grateful to learn from some recently published studies that my desire for a daily afternoon nap was not a sign of laziness, declining interest in my work or approaching senility.  In fact, according to the experts, naps are not only natural, they are beneficial and should be encouraged.

Napping after lunch or some time in the mid afternoon, they say, can improve your productivity and help prevent nasty accidents by keeping you alert the rest of the day. Armed with these findings, I vowed I would hereafter listen to my body when it cried out for a nap, and ignore any societal censure that might crop up.

About an hour after lunch that first enlightened day I noticed the page I was reading beginning to fade.  My eyes derived tremendous pleasure from remaining closed for several seconds at a time.  Normally panicked by such signals, I now looked forward to the afternoon nap that was about to take place with a veritable torrent of anticipation.

I work at home, so implementation, I thought, would be simple.  But some questions arose.  Should I take off my shoes?  Should I put my feet up on the desk or get into bed?  If in bed, should I nap on top of the covers or underneath?  If underneath, should I get undressed or just take my shirt off? Or my pants?

In any case, I'd leave my socks on.

But how long should I nap?  The way I felt I could sleep until the next morning. Since my accountant would be over at four to check the books, I set the alarm for 3:45.  I decided to keep my clothes on, remove my shoes and lie down on the bed on top of the covers.

But I couldn't sleep.  Lying there, finally, after all those years, all I could do was think that the whole country was watching me, wondering how I was going to finish all the things that I had to do before the week was out.

And then I was in the Antarctic.  The dogs were starving, the sled half covered with snow.  I was shivering.  I needed a blanket desperately.  Suddenly the alarm went off.  Should I brush my teeth?  And my hair -- how would I get it to lie down?  My eyes were bloodshot.  Before I could even change my rumpled shirt the doorbell rang.  Would I be able to talk?  To listen?  To think? How long would it take me to wake up?

That weekend, business obligations and household chores safely out of the way, I prepared more properly for my afternoon nap.  This time I got completely undressed and got under the covers.

I felt my wife shaking me.

"What are you doing?" she cried.

"I'm taking a short nap."

"It's seven -thirty," she said.  "You've been in bed since two and we have a dinner date over at Bill and Beth's at eight.  Are you all right?"

All right?  I was a tiger, absolutely on fire.  In fact, I've never been so witty, so engaging, as I was that night.  Beth complimented me on how well I looked. Bill eyed me suspiciously.  When the others started to yawn I was ready to go bowling.

Later, at home, my wife climbed into bed and went out like a light.  I lay there staring at the ceiling.  The nap really had worked, I chuckled to myself, going over my triumphs of the evening.  An hour went by.  And then another.  At three in the morning, still unable to fall asleep, I got up for a glass of warm milk.  it was hopeless.

Obviously, napping was too new to my way of life.  As a novice, I needed guidelines and training.

It would be easier if more people took to napping, the way they took to two- hour lunches, the happy hour and jogging.  We'd have more articles, even books, on the subject.  It would become a part of American life.

Meanwhile, those of us who are napping pioneers will have to experiment, one afternoon at a time.  I'm willing.  Are you?

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goneforeign said...

Elliot: My system entails lunch at about 12.30 with a glass of cheap red wine then I collapse into a half sitting/half lying position on the couch and read 'til 1 o'clock when Terry Gross comes on; if she has a good guest I usually make it all the way through, if not I usually awaken at about 3pm.
I've recently invested in a new stereo system primarily to play my vinyl collection. I bought two comfy chairs from Costco, faux leather rocker/recliners. Between them I built a 'coffee table' to hold only the amp, the CD player and the tutntable: they're all fed into a pair of large JBL Studio Monitors. Now instead of the couch I adjourn to the comfy chair in recliner mode and the nap follows suite.
The records sound wonderful, I spent my whole life playing music regularly but of late it wasn't convenient 'til I set up this system. Music every day 2-5pm.

quixote said...

On your head be it, Elliot. I can see another one of those pathetic magazines already.

"Nap It!"

And the teaser headlines. "Pro nappers tips" "Power nap -- NOW" "Your nap outfit: dreamy? or just a snore?"

The checkout line is bad enough as it is, with the demise of Weekly World News.

Misao said...

Dear Ellott,
I went to bed ridiculously early one evening when I was a teenager still living at home. I remember being awakened by the enticing aroma of bacon being fried for breakfast. I got up to join the family at the breakfast table, only to find the whole house quiet and dark, at 11 P.M.


P.S. I have a good friend who naps at 3 P.M. every day and has done so for decades. She slept at staff mtgs while still a teacher in Berkeley; she dozed on Sunday when we visited a friend just home from the hospital. Can be done!