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.”

Getting up at 7 AM every day is kind of awesome

            I forget exactly when I started waking up at 9 AM every day (even on weekends). I think it was about fifteen months ago, when I stopped drinking coffee. I realized that even with my self-employed schedule, I was going to need to wake up in the morning at least one day a week (for social engagements, if nothing else), and that without coffee there was no way I could continue to do my usual thing of sleeping until noon on most days and then powering through whatever mornings I needed to.

            And waking up at 9 was pretty good. It was wonderful to have a firm sense of how much time I was going to have each day. It’s difficult to plan out your days if the start date moves around depending on whenever you decide to get up. However, 9 AM was kind of too late. It was hard to fall asleep at night, and the sun often woke me up too early.

In the months before I started school, I decided to pre-emptively begin waking up at 7 AM (every day, even on the weekends), so that I’d be able to handle the possibility of teaching a 9 AM class. As it turned out, that was pretty prescient. I was assigned a 9 AM class (and I’ll be teaching one next semester as well). But it’s been pretty great. 7 AM is perfect. There’s an hour to lounge around in my underwear and answer my email and reject stories and drink tea. And my body seems to feel like seven is an adequate time. I do frequently wake up at around 5 AM with a need to go to the bathroom, but that means that I’m usually able to get in another sleep cycle between 5 AM and 7 AM. I’m usually lying awake in bed for a few moments by the time my alarm goes off, but I rarely feel shortchanged.

Furthermore, after I’ve experienced considerably less insomnia now that I’ve moved my bedtime to around midnight. I usually manage to fall asleep in what feels like less than half an hour. Then, my noon to 2 PM nap takes care of the rest of my sleep needs.

Sleep is really what you need in order to start locking down a schedule. Now that I know when and how I’ll be sleeping, I’ve finally started to fall into a routine. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, I do my writing post-nap, from about 2 PM to 4 PM. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I do it pre-nap, from about 8 AM to 11 AM. And then I let the rest of the pieces fall where they will. The day is actually quite conveniently ordered in terms of my priorities. I do my writing during my first free moments of the day. Then I do a little socializing in the evening (or at least, try to). After that, I try to take a walk around campus in order to hit my ten thousand steps for the day (yes, I carry a pedometer…it is super nerdy). Finally, I come home and do some reading. I aim for about two hours, but sometimes it’s closer to 1. And, finally, I prep my class and do whatever needs to be done for Spanish.

Over the course of the year, I’m going to try to stretch my writing time from 2 hours a day to somewhere closer to 3, but I’m not too dissatisfied with what I have right now. Of course, I definitely feel a certain amount of constraint. There’s a limited amount that I can do. Already I’m seeing the ways in which I can’t put as much time into certain projects as I’d want to, but in some ways I really enjoy the sense of control that comes from knowing about how much I’m going to be able to accomplish in any given week.