There is more refreshment and stimulation in a nap, even of the briefest, than in all the alcohol ever distilled.” — Ovid
In the ’60s when Mom had a house full — and I mean full — of children, she took to napping weekdays from 3-4 pm. She’d get right under the covers of her bed to doze off, setting the alarm for an hour. Although no ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign hung on the bedroom door, we knew to get our after-school snacks quietly, then disappear outside or into the basement until she emerged, refreshed and ready for a chaotic evening.
Of the esteemed Canadian journalist Richard Gwyn, a former colleague says he envied Gwyn’s talent — which he witnessed in an International airport lounge — to fall asleep at any time and awake “ever calm and collected. No matter what. No matter where.” Closer to home, Glen has long shown an ability to nod into a nap and feel rejuvenated when he later comes to. About napping:
- Who? Although we usually associate napping with infants and young children, individuals of any age — especially those who do not log seven to eight hours of sleep a night — can gain from practicing this art.
- What? A nap is a brief period of sleep: six, ten, 20-30 or as long as 60-90 minutes in length.
- When? For individuals on regular schedules, i.e. not working night shifts, a nap is best taken during the day before 3 p.m. so as not to disrupt nighttime sleep.
- Where? The fortunate among us can nap anywhere, tuning out distracting noise. The rest may do so behind closed office doors or in other quiet settings. Increasingly companies, colleges and universities are designating nap rooms or pods for their employees and students. One company set up a “recharge room” to address mental-health issues. The room features a diffuser with essential oils, a salt lamp, mats for stretching, and a couch for napping.
- Sleeplessness is linked to irritability, anger, depression and mental exhaustion; a nap can help alleviate these symptoms of sleep deprivation.
- Companies demonstrate enlightened self-interest in allocating special rooms since naps improve performance through increased alertness and quicker reaction times. (Will a nap better my tennis game?)
- Maintaining robust health — of our blood pressure, hearts and immune systems — requires adequate sleep.
- Naps can boost memory, learning and problem-solving skills.
How? Science experts recommend one of two optimal nap lengths: either 20-30 minutes or 60-90 minutes. Apparently we should not nap in between these time frames (though shorter is acceptable), as we may fall into a full-on sleep cycle. And arising before the cycle’s complete can cause sleep inertia — feeling more tired than before we snoozed. Some individuals choose to nap every day while others opt for alternate days, depending on the amount of sleep the night before.
I admit my inability to nap but, given the benefits, may try anew. And you? •