Afternoon Delight

For Kathy…

Winston Churchill managed to do it regularly, without shedding any blood, sweat, or tears. Napoleon and Stonewall Jackson never battled the urge. Brahms found the concept as comforting as a lullaby. And then there’s Ronald Reagan, who, as president, came to personify the very ideal.

These famous men share a common passion with two-thirds of all American adults and, oddly enough, 75 percent of all Israeli high school students. Plus me.

We have all discovered the Joy of Napping. Simply put, there is nothing quite as refreshing as a good old-fashioned afternoon snooze. Forget Andy Warhol and his 15 minutes of fame for everyone. I’m over 40–I’d rather have 15 minutes of sound sleep.

Of course, this is an idea that harkens back to kindergarten; one of the few classroom memories that remains with me. Miss Dotson was my teacher. After lunch, we’d have to take out our bedrolls and stretch them out on the floor. The lights would go off and Miss Dotson would circle the room, finger to her lips. “Ssssh, Quiet time.” We would nap. Not a peep was heard for the next half hour.

Fast forward a few decades. For the past two years, I’ve been treating myself to a daily 20-minute nap sometime during the day. I wake up energized, ready to work late into the night.

But despite the growing popularity, a nap is often considered somewhat of a guilty pleasure. There is a societal stigma attached to the practice, associating napping with senilty and old age. Napping at the office is considered a sign of weakness, of someone who isn’t quite up the job. Low energy.

Nonsense. There’s nothing to be ashamed about. We nappers are not about to take such tripe lying down. It’s time to look at the big picture. Americans are getting less sleep than we did 100 years ago. According to a national group called the Better Sleep Council, back in the 1890s, Americans were sleeping an average of 9.5 hours a night. Today, most of us get less than seven hours of sleep.

Result: We’re sleeping less at night, increasing the need for an afternoon time out. There was also the news recently reported that people who take regular naps have a lower risk of heart attacks. Napping, it seems, helps to calm the system down and reduce stress. In addition, a good nap stimulates the body, lessening the need for caffeine and other unhealthy stimulants.

However, there is a downside to napping and one must distinguish between a short break and actual sleep. Experts suggest that a good nap shouldn’t last more than 30 minutes (Miss Dotson was prescient!)–otherwise you risk disrupting your normal night time sleep habits.

A group touting itself as the World Nap Organization recently released a profile on who is likely to be caught napping. Approximately 40 percent of the members surveyed report taking four or more naps a week. Women feel more guilty than men about napping. Winter is the most common time to “hibernap.” Age does seem to be a factor with people over the age of 50 the most likely to close their eyes.

Napping is an easy option for me since I often work at home. Those in the workplace wanting to catch a few Zzzzz’s face a more difficult challenge. I tried the idea out on a friend who responded with an eye roll. “I’m sure my boss would be impressed.”

Fine, but is there an office anywhere that wouldn’t benefit from Miss Dotson’s approach and a little “Quiet Time?” Lights off. Phones answered by voice mail. Easing the workday stress by someone raising a finger to the lips and going “Ssssh.” Think it over.

Sleep on it.

San Luis Obispo County Telegram-Tribune (November 1997)

Published by Dave Congalton

Writer. Radio Host. Screenwriter. Enjoying the Good Life on California's Central Coast.

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