One of today’s biggest health problems is that of fatigue; many forms of fatigue may be helped in the simple act of napping. By definition, a nap lasts for less than 20 minutes or more than ninety, but isn’t a full rest extending into the deeper cycles of sleep. The ideal nap, especially in today’s world, lasts for between 10 and 20 minutes.
Many people who aren’t used to napping have trouble identifying with the benefits of being asleep for such a short time. I liken napping to rebooting a computer—at weary times alertness can be restored by even a few minutes of unconscious rest. Like the refreshed computer we operate faster, better, more efficiently... and happier!
1. One or two short naps per day (they may be had almost anywhere safe, and at any time) supplement the rest we don’t get during our evening sleep. If we’re shift workers, especially working nights, napping will be especially beneficial.
2. We may not have a good feel for what alertness is. We may be so tired that alertness is a distant memory. Gradually with weeks and months of napping practice behind us, we begin to learn how good it is to feel alert. I can’t think of a better felt outcome, personally, than being alert.
3. The rational, logical, reasonable mind is thwarted by tiredness. It can render us defenceless and our decision-making, and therefore our confidence, is undermined. We feel incredibly more efficient, effective, and social when we’re well rested.
4. Generally speaking, everyone can improve, to some degree, their level of felt alertness. Even the chronically sleep-deprived or those with sleep disorders should benefit from naps.
1. Do find a quiet, relatively dark space and create a comfortable bodily position (sitting back or lying down is best).
2. Don’t fight the eyes. When we’re tired, or worse overtired, our eyes can become so rigidly open they don’t close easily. Just try to relax the eye muscles. Let the lids find their own position, empty the mind, and feel the lids heavier and the mind lighter.
3. Do set your alarm. The reassurance that you won’t oversleep reduces anxiety. Phone alarms are easy, though there’s the risk of receiving a call. A watch alarm might prove helpful. Allow a few extra minutes to fall asleep.
4. Don’t panic if you haven’t fallen asleep within five or ten minutes. To rest or have your eyes closed even for a brief period is beneficial, whether you nap or not. And when you wake, resist the idea to go back to sleep; wake yourself straight away. For me, this generates extra alertness—to spring out of bed.
There’s hardly a better feeling than alertness. Being well rested is central to operating at our peak. A basic life skill, napping helps. It’s never too late to develop the skill. Our wellbeing may very well, as a result, abound—through such a simple act.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.