An end to the napsperiment

Longtime blog readers will know that I sometimes have trouble falling asleep, and I am constantly on the lookout for lifestyle habits that minimize my tiredness and maximise my productive hours.

So far, I’ve quit smoking, quit drinking caffeine, stopped hitting snooze, and started waking up at a consistent time. All of these had some benefits, but none was a magic bullet. About a year ago, I thought I had found that bullet: napping. I started napping every day, between noon and 2 PM. Thus, even if I got limited sleep at night, I knew I only needed to power through 5 hours of being awake before I got to sleep again.

However, I’ve come to realize that napping is not perfect. My naps are often restless and full of nightmares. And I sometimes wake up feeling not-very-refreshed. Furthermore, I’ve noticed that if I just stay awake during the drowsy period that normally hits me between 1 and 3 PM, then during the evening I’ll naturally wake up again.

This leads me to think that napping is not really doing that much for me. Furthermore, I’ve been going for 90 minute naps, but I’m starting to think that 45 minute naps are just as good.

This has resulted in something of a paradigm shift. I think that perhaps tiredness is not the enemy. Like, maybe it’s okay to be tired sometimes. Lately, when I’ve been tired in the afternoons, I’ve just downshifted into lower-intensity work (like writing blog posts) and waited for my energy to pick up in the evening. I still nap on occasion, but not every day.

In this (as in everything in my life), I’m helped by not having to be at work in the afternoons. If I was still in the office, it’d be pretty difficult to just throw up my hands and say, “Welp, I’m not going to get anything done for the next few hours.”

The Nap Option! (plus, a lexicography of napping)

Last Thursday, I had a terrible night of sleep. I woke up at 5 AM and started drinking coffee in order to be prepared for a morning commitment. Then, I sat down and tried to work until my readings class was scheduled to begin at 2 PM. However, the day was in all ways miserable. My writing was silly and low-quality. I couldn’t concentrate enough to read. I tried to nap, but I was too caffeinated. All I could do was chat online with distant friends. Finally, I gave up and just went ahead and did all the things that I’d been too busy to do for the past few weeks: I paid my estimated taxes; I threw out some boxes; I bought a coffee machine; I wrote a blog post; I cleaned my shower (oh my god, my shower was unbelievably gross–the drain was clogged and there was all this sediment dried up on it). But, while they were necessary, these actions brought me no pleasure.

And then, during my readings class, I was just so dead. I did my best, but my world was in ruins. I was too tired to feel positive emotions.

And I sat there thinking, “Oh my god, I’ve made such a horrible mess of my life. How could I have gotten into this state? This day is completely wasted. And what’s more, I’m so overcaffeinated that I know that tonight I’m going to have an even worse night of sleep.”

And I vowed to myself that I would never get into that state again. I don’t think that being tired or otherwise exhausted is good for a person’s writing. But even if it is, I’d rather have a happy day than a good writing day.

Amongst other decisions that came out of that day, I’ve decided to reorder my priorities. From now on, my first priority in life is getting enough sleep. My second priority is the rest of that less important bodily stuff. And then will come writing, reading, school, teaching, etc.

My problem has, for years, been a recurrent night-time insomnia. But, for some weird reason, I am always perfectly able to fall asleep during the midafternoon. I’ve always resisted embracing the siesta, because it seemed too wild and untameable. But now I’ve finally succumbed.

I am instituting The Nap Option.

On every day, my current schedule has a free space between noon and 2 PM. Until now, I’ve been using that space for writing and/or reading. But from now on, I am barring myself from writing in that period. Even if I am perfectly awake and alert, no writing can occur during the Nap Option time period. With this simple rule, I am removing the Writing/Napping dichotomy. Never again shall I be forced to choose between writing and napping. From now on, I can nap guilt-free!

Today, I utilized the nap option for the first time. It was glorious.

And, as I drifted off to sleep, I began to formulate a lexicography of napping:

  • nappetizer – A dense pre-nap meal, usually consisting of starchy, glutinous foods that facilitate drowsiness.
  • nappetite – The ravenous hunger that assails one upon the completion of a successful and prolonged nap.
  • naptitude – One’s ability to nap: scientists have long debated whether a person’s naptitude is primarily a result of genetics or whether it is a trait that can be acquired through study and training.
  • napkindred – A person who shares your napping schedule.
  • napnea – Repeatedly awakening from a nap, often in the grip of some terrifying nightmare.
  • napprentice – One who is just embarking on his or her first few attempts at daytime napping.
  • napsomnia  – When one settles down for a nap, but sleep is not forthcoming.
  • napsent – see napsomnia.
  • naperture – the window of time during which one is physiologically able to nap. For instance, my own naperture is between 11 AM and 5 PM.