The art of napping

I suppose if someone were to ask me what I was good at, what my true talent is, I’d have to say I’m an excellent napper.  I mean, I have been training since birth, and it’s the one thing in which I am truly confident in my skill.  It must be in my genes, because my mom is also great at naps.  Only she calls it “reading” (usually some reading does take place pre-nap).  Her mom, my grandmother, used to call it “resting her eyes”, so I suppose I come from a long line of nap enthusiasts.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t spend my days sleeping, nor am I able to nap every day (but wouldn’t that be nice?).  I just find that a quick afternoon nap, when I can take one, often makes me more productive.  As a practiced napper, I am usually able to close my eyes and wake up exactly 19 minutes later, refreshed and ready to continue work, without setting an alarm.  However, my napping was not always this precise.

I have discovered over the years that being a good napper takes a lot of discipline.  It is, after all, a self-regulated “sport”.  As such, I have developed four simple rules that create both the optimum napping experience and post-nap working experience.

  • Naps must be shorter than 45 minutes.  Ideal naps are about 20 minutes, but if you are really tired, you can allow for 45 (if time).  It’s a good idea to set an alarm.  I usually set one, but end up waking up before.
  • Never turn the lights off or shut the blinds.  Keep the room sunny and bright (or if it’s not sunny, keep it light).  I find this helps you not be confused with going to bed.
  • Never get under the covers (if napping in bed).  In fact, it’s good to nap in some other space (couch, chair, desk). If you nap in your bed, and are cold, it’s fine to use a throw blanket, just not your comforter.  This also helps you distinguish between napping and actually sleeping.
  • Have some background noise.  Good options are: golf (the soft talking lulls you into relaxation) or NPR (same with the soft talking, with the added bonus of hearing the news if you can’t fall asleep).

As I write this, I am just now realizing that all of my rules could be whittled down to one: make the napping experience distinct from the sleeping experience.  That’s basically it.

One extra tip:  don’t stress about not falling asleep.  Even just “resting your eyes” for a few minutes is beneficial (and I actually mean resting your eyes, not like what my grandmother meant, which was actually sleeping).  I could cite many studies about how great napping is for general health and well-being, but I really don’t think I need to convince anyone about how excellent naps are (except maybe a five year old).

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