I did not know adults napped. Until the first weekend I spent with my husband’s family, I thought it was only something children did in infancy or on colored mats in kindergarten. But at around two o’clock on that Sunday, something in the house shifted. People started to disappear. They retreated into their various spaces without a word. The house was deadly quiet and so I tiptoed through the living room like a thief. My husband was sprawled out on the sofa with an afghan pulled up to his chin, quietly snoring. I kicked his foot.
“What are you doing?”
“Napping,” he said, looking like nothing more than a giant toddler
I mocked him and then left him to it. It wasn’t until I had kids that the beauty of the power nap came home to me in all its sweet oblivion. I’m not necessarily talking about the exhausted naps of infancy when you drift off in the middle of a pile of dirty laundry. It was toddlerhood, when every minute was chasing, feeding, and running the standard clown show, that the power nap really came to fruition.
A power nap is some form of sleep that occurs during the day and lasts anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes. Any shorter and it’s just a long blink. Any longer and it’s a solid snooze with the potential to leave you dragging the rest of the day. The point of the power nap is to energize and it can be better than coffee if you use it right. It also lowers blood pressure, makes you more creative, helps you solve problems, and improves declarative memory so you can find your keys and remember what day it is and the names of your kids.
So if you’re finding yourself lagging mid-morning or mid-afternoon, here are a few tips to help you master the power nap.
All you really need is 10 minutes. I know life is crazy with kids, but one-sixth of an hour is hiding in there somewhere. Maybe it’s when the kids nap or the little sliver of time after work when you can let your significant other takeover before the dinner rush. Carve that time out and make it sacred. Make it the hallowed time of day that nobody can mess with. It’s the easiest and cheapest form of self-care.
You are not being lazy. You need this for you and it will help you be a better parent, spouse, and human in the long run. There will always be things to do and, if you spend these precious minutes worrying about the checklist, you’ll negate all the good this rest period is offering. If necessary, put it on that list. It can be a very satisfying thing to check off.
Turning the brain off isn’t magic and it’s not a simple flipping of a switch. If you already meditate, practice some of that deep breathing and the sensing of your body from your head down to your toes. Feel the space you take up and relax into it. If you’ve never tried mediation, use an easy app like Headspace to guide you through it.
The power nap takes time. You might very well spend the first few weeks lying in bed and staring at the ceiling like you’ve been put in time out. Make your space what you need it to be to induce that calm – a soft blanket, dim lights, white noise, whatever it takes. Eventually, like any habit, it will take hold and you will find yourself drifting off and back again without a clock.
It took parenthood to make me see the light when it comes to napping. But if the entire business class on an airplane can do it and little old ladies watching “Wheel of Fortune” can do it, then surely you can take a power nap too.
It takes a village!
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