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Thursday, October 9, 2014

Nap Your Way to Success. Or Death.

First off, I would like to thank my Aunt and Uncle Wisdom for urging me to take Prednisone. My poison ivy is waning. My cold and sore throat are now gone. And despite my father’s suggestion that I share a photograph of the disgusting skin on my arm where the rash used to be, I’m going to pass. Once again, I’m proving there are limits to my exhibitionism.

Second off, I’ve been binging on the - what shall I call it? - the Self-Care, the Maintenance, and it’s got to stop. Physical therapy, regular therapy, facials, waxing, hair cuts, Pilates. A massage. I’m living like a millionaire, which I’m not. I have so many appointments I hardly have a free day anymore. Mix in the repairs for the screen door that the dog barreled through last week, the sprinkler system, the need to locate an orange-and-black bandanna for the 11th grader’s school spirit day and so on, and there’s no time. So I’m dialing it back. Especially since I have to take a nap almost every morning. I think that’s due to the Prednisone, which keeps me awake at night. By the morning, it has worn off, so once I take care of the morning duties – lunches, breakfasts, carpools, dog feeding, and so one, I have to snooze.
So let’s talk about naps, Readers. Do you nap? I am a long time napper. I have never felt any guilt about napping. Okay, why do I even bother to write that? For heaven’s sake, I feel guilt about everything I do that seems unproductive, and napping tops the list. Let’s be real.

What I should have said was I never felt anything else besides guilt about napping, at least not until recently. I read an article in the NYTimes about nappers being more likely to die in the next bunch of years than non-nappers. After that, I saw a couple more mentions of the negative correlations between napping and mortality. I tried to ignore them, because what good does it do me to wish all my naps unnapped? However, ignoring links to mortality doesn't come easily to me. Therefore, now I have guilt and FEAR about napping. Why else would I need so much Self Care?

The good news is that there have been at least as many recent articles about the benefits of napping. Napping, staring-off-into-space, and vacationing (if you can afford that) improve creativity, stimulate creativity. In fact, apparently if we all "set aside time for naps and contemplation, we will be in a more powerful position to start solving some of the world’s big problems.” (NYTimes 8/10/14 SR5)

So this created a quandary. Nap and die or repair the world? Is it really one or the other? I did a search on “napping and early death,” and discovered this: study. ( The article's upshot is that people who nap for more than one hour a day seem to have a higher chance of mortality in a certain number of years, for various possible reasons. HOWEVER, those who nap for less than an hour show no increase. Well, Thanks God, as my sister the psychoanalyst has begun to say. You see, I’m a power napper. Twenty minutes on the couch leave me better than new.  

And this whole nap equals death thing is, empirically speaking, a crock. I mean, my father is a napper. He’s the king of the power nap. I have a strong memory, dating back at least four decades, of him napping on the couch with one foot on the floor. He’s 89 now, and still snoozling.

In defense of my nap habit, I offer that information. I also offer the rationale that sitting down to write something creative when you’re really tired is mighty hard. It's almost as hard as sitting down to do deadly boring work like data entry; which, I know from experience, is a strong soporific. I believe if I look closely I can still see indentations in my cheeks from many power naps I took during my days as a library assistant at the Mothership* Library.

Finally, I also recently read a tidbit about the so-called caffeine nap. I thought I was the only one who experienced this phenomenon; namely, falling into a nice snooze directly upon finishing a cup of coffee. It seems I am not the only one. The caffeine nap seems to be a thing. The article offered a neurobiochemical explanation for why, which I will paraphrase, probably incorrectly - but who's to know? Apparently, a short nap clears some kind of gunk from the synapses and makes room for something else to glom onto them, something that makes you more alert. And for some miraculous reason, caffeine helps the brain clear the gunk from the synapses along with the napping. So sip and nap, my friends. 

The key to a power nap is that foot on the floor, or an equivalent - a keyboard, or a semi-full bladder - something that doesn't let you get too comfortable. That is some self care I can afford - and you can, too. 

*That's Widener Library, Harvard University.

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