I love to nap.
Ten years ago, I would have complained that naps left me groggy and not feeling good, but as we’ve added children to our family and I’ve learned to juggle work and kids and other obligations, naps have become an important strategy in my toolbox.
There are really three different types of naps I love:
1. The car nap.
My husband and children will tell you that if you put me in a car for more than 30 minutes (and sometimes even on shorter drives), I will inevitably sleep. I just can’t help myself—the vibration of the car, the assurance that no one can hurt themselves, and the lack of a to-do list lulls me to sleep every time.
As I’ve become a more skilled napper (yes, believe me, this is a skill!), I’ve learned to nap through arguing from the backseat or fussiness from the littles. I’ll often hear what’s going on at the edge of my consciousness—or feel my sweet hubby straightening my neck so that other cars passing by don’t think I’m dead in the front seat!—but I can quickly fall back into deeper sleep and keep napping.
2. The cat nap.
This is really my favorite kind of nap. A 5-20 minute nap is the perfect amount of sleep when I’m feeling tired and unfocused, and it’s amazing how much that tiny nap can rejuvenate me.
Einstein reportedly used a key to achieve these quick cat naps, sitting in a chair with a key held in his hand over the floor. As soon as he drifted into sleep, his hand would release, and the key would drop, waking him up.
In my house, I don’t need a key since I have kids running around, and I have found that a short nap that ends as soon as it begins really does have an amazing effect on my energy, focus and creativity. Occasionally I’ll take a slightly longer nap while the kids are outside playing or watching TV, but I try not to go longer than 20 minutes most days since a short nap is less likely to make you groggy.
3. The Sunday-afternoon nap.
Occasionally, especially when I’m sick or very sleep deprived, I’ll lay down in bed with the fan on and take a several-hour nap. These naps often do leave me groggy, so I don’t do it often, but sometimes you just need to sleep and deal with the aftermath whatever it may be.
I know many people dread a nap because of the way it makes them feel afterward, and for those people I’d recommend the cat nap. Sometimes I do wake up feeling a little out of it, but it doesn’t last long, and the energy boost is worth enduring that feeling for a few minutes.
Other people don’t nap because they can’t fall asleep. If this is you, I recommend practicing until it comes easily. Wait until you’re at your sleepiest and take advantage of that feeling. Write down any “to-dos” before you try to nap so you don’t have to worry about forgetting them. Practice clearing your mind by thinking about nothing or remembering a special moment in your life. I like to think back through one of my children’s births. I know the stories well enough that they don’t require my concentration and so they help lull me to sleep fairly quickly.
ACTIVITIES & QUESTIONS
1. How do you feel about napping? Which of these three naps have you tried? Which do you enjoy? Which make you feel groggy?
2. If you’re not getting enough sleep or you hit an afternoon slump no matter how much sleep you get, try a cat nap (less than 20 minutes) each day this week and see if it makes a difference.