An estimated 83.6 million adults in the U.S. are sleep deprived, either because they are habitual insomniacs or they simply don’t take the time to get the sleep they need to lead a happy life. One way to improve your health is to learn the art of napping.
I’m lucky. I’m a dedicated master-napper — probably because I had excellent role-models in my parents. Which also strengthens the idea that you can learn how to nap. I can plop down anywhere, anytime and get myself a little shut-eye while forgetting everything around me.
I have napped draped over my first laptop in New York’s 42nd Street Public Library (only to be woken up by the very strict guard), snored softly in airports on the floor, in the back of cars, disappeared in strangers’ bedrooms during dinner parties, took naps while visiting girlfriends, dozed off in hammocks, on beaches, in parks, on benches. I don’t care. When I’m tired, I’m tired and I make a quick assessment of my situation and come up with a plan that allows me to lie down somewhere.
As I’ve said, the knack for napping runs in the family. My father, an advertisement executive, was a trailblazing napper (in the early sixties) when it was seen as a certain weakness in a man other than an old man. He simply locked his office after 2 p.m. for an hour pretending he was out but instead was lying down for a snooze. My Mom, a housewife, also loved to sleep (no wonder), and when it was suspiciously silent in the house, we kids would find her sleeping somewhere rolled up like a cat until we woke her up.
My sister and I are the same way, and although we don’t have much else in common, we marvel at that skill that seems so small and simple but turned out to be a perfect drug free tool for staying healthy.
Most people I know can’t nap and are secretly envious of all the carefree nappers around them. Famous insomniacs like Marilyn Monroe and Madonna, Vincent van Gogh and Bill Clinton, Margret Thatcher and Arianna Huffington have supposedly tried everything, mostly either popping pills or working like crazy. There is often this idea that insomniacs are geniuses only because they invest more time. But the reason for their outstanding accomplishments is mostly that these people are self-confessed control-freaks and workaholics, racing around in their mental cage like a speedy hamster. But the truth is that sleep-deprivation doesn’t add extra hours to your life; it takes them actually away by letting you operate your job and your life like in a haze where you are staggering around like a Zombie in a horror movie.
Arianna Huffington declared sleep deprivation a “feminine” issue, maybe, but what is definitely true is that not getting enough sleep isn’t exactly a beauty booster, and for vain women like me, having dark circles under my eyes is enough reason to erase that un-chic fatigued look with a refreshing nap.
Have you ever seen the silly but irresistible videos of cute puppies that just close their eyes and topple over without a care in the world when they are tired? That’s the kind of trust and mental condition we want to be in when we’re napping! Trusting our bodies that they know best when we need to sleep for while.
The greatest enemy of naps is fear. Fear of never waking up again, fear of missing out on something, fear that the world goes on without us, fear of disappearing, and most of all, fear of control.
Like with everything important in life, when you need to change habits and directions, you need to take a close look. Regardless of whether you want to become a freelance at-home-napper or sneak a nap in an office, successful naps need rules.
To become a Master-Napper you need to prepare yourself mentally first by creating a nap-friendly culture.
Here are my 10 steps towards Happy Napping.
1. Problem sleepers have the tendency to whine and blame. That has to stop! Get out of the “victim” mode and declare yourself the victorious ruler over your sleeping pattern.
2. Associate napping with positive feelings. Reach deep inside you and search for the warm and cozy spot that reminds you of a protected childhood (hopefully you had one). Didn’t that feel good?
3. Don’t be ashamed to be tired! A large part of any kind of good sleep is surrendering to your body and giving up the fight.
4. “Risking” a nap show self-love and great confidence. Stop treating you like a well-oiled machine! You don’t need to prove toughness. Resting body and mind shows strength not weakness.
5. A nap is a present to you. Lie down. Close your eyes. Breathe. Feel foxy and brave. Smile. Doze off.
6. Think of all the others who are racing around, drinking 5 cups of coffee while texting, talking, sweating, thinking, planning and grinding their teeth — all the while you are napping like a baby next door.
7. Napping means prepping. You are the smart one because while you nap your brain gets a boost and works much better after a rest.
8. Don’t nap more than 35 minutes, after that it can be hard to get back into activities because you might feel disoriented and even more tired.
9. If you work in an office (where you plan to nap — and can lock the door) rehearse napping at home a few times. You might feel safer there and can prepare for the greater challenge in a busy office.
10. Once you become a certified napper, get yourself a pretty nap-kit containing earplugs (very important, I think) and a real nice silk sleeping mask. And don’t leave home without it. It will become as important as your lipstick!
Originally published at medium.com