Tuesday, May 11, 2010

"You have to practice napping"

Since Lucia was born (over five years ago), I have not napped. I grew up in a house where my stepfather Al napped every day at 4:30pm for 60-90 minutes. He'd climb up to his third floor "nap room" (seriously), put the sound proof curtains across the attic door and sleep. Al is a sleep researcher and believes in the powerful benefits of napping. His circadian rhythms are set strictly at this point, so that if he isn't napping at the time he is supposed to be, he just falls asleep wherever he is. He once fell asleep at a parent teacher conference.

It's not that I don't want to nap. It's not that I don't need to nap. I love to nap. I can still conjure the feeling of a summer afternoon nap. Falling asleep with the sun on my face, waking up with sweaty hair, warm sheets, a tight neck, and a parched mouth..... I just can't do it anymore. There's always something that seems to needs attention-- bills to pay, dishes to wash, books to read, friends to see.  But those activities never stopped me from napping before. Why somehow I've lost my ability.

Two days a week I wake up at 5:00am, which means I usually get between five and six hours of sleep on those nights. By 3:00pm the next day, I just power down. I need a nap. Yesterday was a day I really needed a nap. I was emotionally and physically exhausted. I drove home from work at 3:00pm, resisted engaging in any significant distractions in my house and marched right to my bed. I lay there for ten minutes and quickly realized this attempt was, as usual, futile and stupid.

So I went to yoga. Still frustrated at my napping incompetence, I walked into the studio and asked the teacher Frances how she was. She yawned, stretched her arms over her head in a big praise to the sun circle, cocked her head towards me and said, "I just had the best nap." What the fuck?! "I can't naaaaaaaapppppp." I moaned, eyes rolling up to my forehead. Without missing a beat, Frances said calmly (I swear she had sheet wrinkles on her cheek), "You have to practice napping."

O H. M Y. G O D. You have to practice napping too? You have to practice doing yoga. You have to practice listening to your child's messages. You have to practice eating well. You have to practice EVERYTHING. Even napping. "You can't just take a 15-minuter" Frances explained, "I tried that and it just doesn't give you enough time to practice." Of course she's right. For whatever reason in my life-- my age, my sign, the position of Mercury, this is what all things point to. Practice. Find a practice. Make a practice. Do a practice.

1 comment:

  1. You also might need to practice NOT napping...I went through quite a lot of angst during a long stint of sleeping badly, just before I began bikram yoga. Trying to figure out what was wrong helped me learn of food allergies and ultimately to discover what was going on. But in the journey I met with a naturopath specializing in sleep, and we went over how I slept thoroughly to fix things.

    I learned that there can be two, or more, lulls in the circadian rhythm. The most pronounced is the one that makes you go to sleep at night of course. My second milder one hits around 3-5pm.

    I also learned about what's called sleep demand, which is your need to sleep, that grows from no need on awakening, to dead tired at end of day. Napping can be very restorative, but it also reduces sleep demand, kind of like withdrawing from the demand bank. When I napped around my 3-5 time slot, I would reduce my sleep demand in the evening, and there wasn't much time before the end of the day to re-accumulate more sleep demand. So I would often go to sleep those evenings, and awaken around 2am, and have a lousy night of sleep, quite an evil cycle to set up for myself, trust me!

    We worked on my NOT napping during the day, so I only had one "phase" of sleep, in the evening. That was REALLY difficult in the beginning, but once I conquered it, I was free of a cycle I'd inadvertently created, one I was ignorant of having. I could then fully realize the "right" amount of sleep, for me.

    So, just a thought to consider. Napping is a great tool, but like so many things, one that must be used mindfully.


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