I enjoy a nap. In the U.S., I seem to be in the minority these days. It seems that many people back home look at naps negatively. Of course, there are many people who look at a nap as a luxury; something that they would love to have the time to do; but because of the demands of life, are unable to. I’m not addressing these folks. I hope someday they can see themselves clear of the challenges of their current situation and catch up on their sleep. Then there are the folks who have the time to nap, but CHOOSE to spend it pursuing other, “more important” endeavors. I wish them nothing but success and happiness and big pots of coffee. I’m addressing the rest of you who have the time, but choose not to indulge in an afternoon nap because of the negative connotation that has been placed on the institution. It seems to me that resting in the afternoon is perceived by some as being lazy, unproductive, and a waste of precious time. This is despite the fact that many studies have shown the benefits of a nap. This is despite the fact that many Americans are in a constant state of sleep deprivation. This is despite the fact that many famously productive people like Einstein, Edison, Churchill, JFK, LBJ, Napoleon, Stonewall Jackson, Salvador Dali, and Ronald Reagan included naps as part of their daily regimen.
It is interesting to note that Edison, the genius inventor, also understood marketing and branding and kept his napping quiet so he could maintain his public persona of someone who requires very little sleep. Conversely, Churchill made no secret about his napping and said, “Nature has not intended mankind to work from eight in the morning until midnight without that refreshment of blessed oblivion which, even if it lasts twenty minutes, is sufficient to renew all the vital forces.” How can you not love the term, “Blessed oblivion?”
But most of all, this negative perception toward napping goes against our own personal experience on the subject. I’m sure most of you have experienced your body aching for sleep in the afternoon and how just 20 minutes, as Mr. Churchill suggests, can refresh and recharge us to face the rest of the day. How our decision making can be sharper, how we can be more present to others and how we can be more focused on the task at hand after a nap.
We all know of (and perhaps look down upon) the many cultures around the world that indulge in the afternoon siesta. Most of these cultures have a different definition of what makes a happy or successful life. Here on the plains of Serengeti, in Tanzania, I’ve seen many (perhaps most) animals participating in afternoon naps. All of the hunters avoid the heat of the day and restore themselves with afternoon sleep. Lions, in particular, sleep an average of 20 hours a day! So, lions have achieved the title of “King of the Jungle” despite being champion nappers!
Since I am a Leo, perhaps I am more prone (get it?) to napping. And I am now bolstered by the fact that so many in the animal kingdom as well as so many great leaders and thinkers and artists believed in napping as strongly as I do.
Not that I necessarily need the support of these leaders and Leo’s. I know my body and I know my body enjoys some afternoon shuteye. A snooze as short as 5 minutes can do the trick, but usually I’d prefer around 30-40 minutes. Although I don’t need as much sleep as the Serengeti Leo’s, 6-7 hours at night and 30 minutes in the afternoon works just great for me.
So, I am finally out of the closet and now proud to admit I am a napper. Now I just need to come up with a flag to represent our cause. I will leave that to more artistic people than I, but I imagine a flag with something simple on it, perhaps a blanket and a pillow. And although I do feel the support of some of the great minds through history and much of the animal kingdom I have experienced here while on safari, I think I am coming out at this time for an entirely different reason. I find, as I get older, that I care less and less about what other fine people think about me. I find that I don’t need to try as hard to impress. I find that I can be my own imperfect self and it’s great if other’s accept that, but it’s also ok if they don’t. And I find that with this change comes great freedom. Abraham Maslow reminded us to “Be independent of the good opinion of others.”
The Buddha thought that the great challenges we had to overcome in this life are fear, desire (constantly grasping for more, greed, lust, etc.), and the social pressures to conform.
I’m starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel for one of these. I’ll start working on the other two…after my nap.