The nap is purported by many of my friends (admittedly, all over the age of 50) to be one of life’s little pleasures. Their benefits escape me, however. I’ve never been one to take naps. When at the age of five I was in the hospital recovering from a broken leg, I remember the nurses coming into the children’s ward (yes, most patients recovered in wards back then; private and semi-private rooms, if they had them, were a luxury my parents could not afford) every afternoon, pulling the shades/blinds, turning off the lights for half an hour or so and leaving us to our naps. I never napped, even then. I considered them then, as I do now, to be a monumental waste of precious time. So I would lie there, excruciatingly bored, waiting and waiting and waiting for the nurses to return and bring back the light.
Recovering from my bout of cancer in 2003, I did sleep frequently during the day, but I did not consider these periods to be naps, but more the body’s need to quietly go about the business of repairing itself. When having P.E.T. or C.A.T. scans during my subsequent follow up visits to Mayo, part of the process involved being injected with a radioactive dye, and lying as still as possible for an hour. They don’t want you to read or watch TV or to have any distractions, apparently to facilitate the circulation of the dye throughout the body. They put you in a small curtained room and turn off the lights. Nap time. Sometimes I did, sometimes I didn’t. But when I did, it was reluctantly.
Occasionally now, when I take a break from writing and play computer solitaire, I’ll find my mind numbing to the point where I consider lying down for a few minutes. This blog entry is, as a matter of fact, a response to such an urge. But I find when I give in to it, I tend to wake up feeling as though someone had spiked my grog…hmmm, I wonder if that is where the word “groggy” comes from? (Digression, anyone?) Anyway, I awake more tired than when I’d lain down, and feeling strongly as though someone had slipped another day in there, somehow.
I love sleep. But sleep requires time to be fully appreciated. A nap is an unwelcome teaser for the night to come. If I want to sleep, I want to feel as though I’ve gotten my money’s worth.
A friend in Los Angeles had a ritual. As soon as he got home from work each night, he would lie down for 20 minutes…no more, no less…and wake up feeling as chipper as a bluejay. I never could understand how he could do that. Two of my Chicago friends schedule one or more naps a day and seem to be perfectly fine with it. I chalk it up to just one more thing in life that is beyond my ability to comprehend.
Certain well-known historical figures substituted frequent naps for the need to sleep more than a couple hours each night. Thomas Edison, I believe, was one. Small wonder he would invent devices (the electric light, the phonograph) that would tend to keep him awake.
For those who take naps, I admit a certain degree of grudging admiration for doing something I cannot understand, and curiosity as to why and how naps become not only pleasurable but necessary. Maybe it’s a form of addiction.
Time for a cup of coffee.