Naps are a luxury, the forbidden fruit of the working woman or man. They aren’t as expensive as a Mercedes, as dangerous as freebase jumping, or habit forming as Chocolates Plus. They are not a necessity. You can grind through a day without one, driven by demand; usually other’s imperative, where their lack of planning creates crises for everyone. No, naps are a secret pleasure, a nonessential indulgence.
Self-regulation is one of the the prime developmental tasks of the first years of life. Little people learn how to balance the raw output of feeling by developing cognitive control over expression. A toddler throwing a fit in the middle of Target embarrasses the parent much more than upsetting other shoppers. We have all been there. The kid is figuring it out, or more likely, they just need a nap!
After a nap the world is a better place. Just like anything else, there is a lot of variability in post slumber behavior. Some wake ready to go; others need a stiff cup of java to get moving again.
In college getting a nap whenever you can is a survival skill. There is only so much coffee, Red Bull or diet Coke a person can ingest before more time is spent in the bathroom taking care of business than studying.
A heads down approach to napping in a study carrel in a dark corner of the library provides respite between bursts of academic fervor. Reading Paradise Lost for the first time or the umpteenth perusal of The Scarlet Letter requires breaks. It’s very different from vegging out with a John Sanford novel.
The life of the working stiff can provide nap time with some forethought. Instead of eating lunch at noon, snarf as you go, take a bite from that peanut butter sandwich in the desk drawer between tasks, appointments or phone calls. Then when the noon break comes, sneak away to a dark corner for a quick snooze. Counting backward from one hundred to zero could put you under at forty. If it doesn’t, run the numbers again.
Avoid carbs at all costs at mid-day, otherwise pinching your thigh at two leaving a black and blue mark is required when trying to pay attention in a meeting or appear sympathetic to the trials and travails of a client. Stimulants won’t help.
When naps are part of daily living, getting one in requires adaptive mechanisms. With kids on weekends, ear buds and white noise generated from a cell phone app blunts the door slamming and yelling that goes on in an active household. Before the advent of mobile phones, gun muffs worked and still can be the preferred nuclear option.
With retirement comes the “Naps Have No Boundaries” program. You can take one any time, any place, whenever you want; one, two, or on rare occasions three. Just do it. If out fishing on a warm day, dozing is an option, or if you’re really a degenerate, drop the anchor, lay down in the bottom of the boat with a life jacket for a pillow and check out. Upon waking, you’ll be a mean, lean fishing machine!
A lot of research points to the benefits of short naps that increase worker productivity. Not all people can take a nap and function better. There are a lot of individual differences. But for those of us highly skilled in this area, it’s a bonus, one that needs collecting each and every day.