Stumbling over to the soft landing place, phone silenced and blessed quiet descends on this small island made of pillows and for thirty precious minutes, the nothingness is mine. I am a connoisseur of napping. I wasn’t always as appreciative of this life renewal process, but a few years back I learned how to do this with reckless abandon. Now it is a feast of bliss for me.
Sure, I’ve napped on planes over the Pacific and stretched out in the sun with my body cozied into the indentation it made in hot sand beneath my towel. I’ve crashed on couches, hammock’s swinging in an afternoon breeze and countless other settings, but I only started consciously using naps as power tools a few years back.
Like a cell phone, Kindle, laptop or any piece of equipment that moves data through its core to make it useful, the human body must recharge in order to function at maximum efficiency. Proper sleep at night addresses deeper REM issues, but who hasn’t woken up after eight hours of shut eye and still felt tired? Like my cell phone, my body’s battery life seems to change willy-nilly leaving me dragging my rear end at a time when I could really use a full charge.
My own mastering of the nap happened just over five years ago when undergoing radiation treatments for my breast cancer. The tech told me when we started that in a week or so, I would start to feel the effects and I might feel more tired. He downplayed it. I was driving myself to treatments and facing this like a to-do task on my list. Ten days in, arriving home from a session, I face planted in the sofa and slept like Princess Buttercup’s, Wesley after his encounter with the machine; not all dead, just mostly dead. When I got up, pushed my hair back into place and wiped the drool away, I felt like a million bucks. OK, half a million. The point is that my body said “SLEEP. NOW.” And I listened. Where we go wrong is not listening to our body when it’s talking to us.
Twenty to thirty minutes of surrender to what your body needs can snap you out of a creative rut, it can clear the mental debris clouding the solution to a big problem and it can make you a person other people want to be around instead of that whiny, bitchy person you are when you’re tired.
Famous serial nappers included John Kennedy, Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison and Salvatore Dali, who slept with a metal key in his hand and a tin plate on the floor so when he fell deeply asleep the key would fall into the plate and wake him, perfectly refreshed. There are studies galore on the Internet to support this theory. Here’s a quote from just one. “Sleep not only rights the wrong of prolonged wakefulness, but, at a neurocognitive level, it moves you beyond where you were before you took a nap.” Dr. Matthew P. Walker, of the UCB Sleep and Neuroimaging Laboratory. BBC News (2-21-10)
I have a hypnotherapy background so I make my nap times productive. When I surrender to my nap space, I go there with one issue in mind and I hold the thought as I put my body in the most comfortable position it can find. Already familiar with my own self induction ritual, now I simply have to think, “Deeper and deeper, down into complete relaxation.” It takes about two minutes for me to fall into a restful slumber. Short of my Great Dane deciding this is an excellent moment to press her nose into my eye, I will awaken twenty minutes later feeling like I’ve had hours of good sleep.
New parents would trade a pile of gold for enough rest to face their day. My favorite quote when I was a new mother was this: “My parenting skills are in direct proportion with the amount of rest that I have had.” Whoever said it was a freaking genius.
Instructions for the beginning of a new life of creativity, productive work and sane parenting:
- Find your nap nest.
- Have the things you’ll need close at hand; a great pillow, a blanket of the perfect material to balance your body temperature, an alarm on a phone or an old fashioned alarm.
- Shut off ringers, put signs on doors for quiet.
- Remove pets from the space unless they are your nap buddy and let you sleep uninterrupted.
- Make an agreement with others in your space that they will allow and assist you to be uninterrupted during this nap time. Agree to do the same for them.
- The last and most important thing is to actually take the nap. The laundry will wait. The telemarketers and political pollsters will call you back. The world will be just fine for twenty to thirty minutes and you will return from NapLand a supercharged working, writing, creating dynamo and an infinitely better companion.
Sleep. Now. Do it.
My son and the pup, napping when she was little…