One Small Change
The Verdict on Napping
I’ve learned two important things from making this one small, month-long change to take naps. First, I gained a new appreciation and respect for sleep. These last few years, as I’ve been building my own business, I came to regard it as an interruption to progress rather than a fundamental part of it. I didn’t fully realize how vital rest is to creativity, efficiency and feeling in control of life. I suspect this line of thinking may be a guy thing.
Men who can get by on four hours of sleep per night are envied as strong, productive individuals. They are esteemed as men of character and fortitude. For proof, look no further than the army of insomniacs on Wall Street or in Washington. But the truth of the matter is, these are the guys having heart attacks mid-life. And if you peek behind their Ralph Lauren façade, you’ll find privately debilitating levels of stress and insecurity that often spill over into their duties. Whatever became of Winston Churchill’s example of working late into the morning from bed and napping unapologetically whenever he felt like it? Can you imagine the embarrassment, the public fear, the resulting White House spin, if the paparazzi caught President Obama napping during this time of crisis? Our enemies would grin.
Women, though, don’t seem to get as hung up on sleep as men do. They don’t view it as an adversary that needs to be vanquished or contained. Rather, it’s a friend into whose arms and confidence they willingly surrender as frequently as their equally busy lives allow. Where men find guilt, they find nourishment. If that sounds sexist, then so be it. It’s true to my life experience. For instance, my wife, who works an early-morning shift as a hospital nurse, has been napping for years, and I’m sorry to say I’ve ridiculed her for it.
“C’mon, power through,” I’d say. “You’re wasting a beautiful day.” But I won’t do that anymore. Now I realize that it’s the nap that makes the day (and her) even more beautiful.
The second thing I learned is how to nap. I had sound instruction in kindergarten but, like most things taught in school, I soon forgot it all. When Miss Wilmot was telling us to put our heads down on our desks for our little power naps, I was peeking at Jeanne Pavelka’s knee socks. As a result of not absorbing this important lesson, I napped infrequently, incorrectly and without satisfaction for decades thereafter. Indeed, my subsequent adult “naps” consisted of either bouts of brief unconsciousness following large meals, or afternoons of weekend catch-up sleep on the sofa after which I’d awake more tired and grouchy than ever.
But now I know what a good nap is, how to match it with my nighttime sleep schedule and, most important, the benefits that it can bestow when executed well. That kind of precision makes it more appealing. (Again, maybe a guy thing.) Although I’m not going to nap every day from now on (sometimes during this past month I felt like I was forcing it), I will nap when I feel the need. And I’ll do so guiltlessly, with the knowledge that taking a half-hour out of my day will, ironically, help me pack even more into what remains—enjoyment and satisfaction included.
About The Author
Joe Kita – Joe Kita is a noted writer, editor, motivational speaker and teacher. He authors the blog "One Small Change" for CorePerformance.com.