If I were a superhero, my power would be the ability to nap anywhere. It’s a talent.
I nap on New York City subway trains. I nap in waiting rooms. I nap the way Hobbits eat meals: on Sundays, especially, I am a fan of what I call “second naps.” I nap at the beach, and during the talking parts of Transformers movies, and before going out at night.
I once napped under my bosses desk because it was the one spot in the office no one would think to find me. He was out of town, of course. So I just snuck away from work, curled up under his giant desk like a feral cat, and slept for a healthy fifteen minutes or so. I was back at my own desk, refreshed and ready to fill spreadsheets with numbers, before anyone could ask “Is John napping somewhere?”
I am not lazy. I just doze whenever I can because life is short and should be enjoyed, and napping is the snack cake of shuteye.
I would like my tombstone to read “He Dreamed Of Naps.” My obituary should explain that I was a champion of late-afternoon snoozes for all. This is my legacy. Or, at least, it will be after this essay is published.
Americans don’t get enough sleep. This is both obvious and backed by science. I live a busy life, and so do all the people in my life. We’re all hustling to pay the bills and that can mean late nights and early mornings. A Gallup poll from a few years ago confirms this: 40% of Americans get less than 7 hours of sleep. That’s a lot of bleary-eyed human beings shuffling around like zombies.
If America was more of a nap-positive country, we wouldn’t be so exhausted. Sadly, however, our culture thinks napping is only for children, and the elderly. There is a stigma associated with napping in public, or at work, or in the middle of the day, that I think needs to change. Why did God create hammocks if not so His children could nap during the summer? Think about it.
Plenty of other countries and cultures embrace naps. The Chinese people, for instance, are famous for taking noontime naps. Italians enjoy an afternoon nap break called riposo, and the Spanish siesta is, truly, the Olympics of resting your eyes for a couple of hours. These traditions are the result of ancient cultures realizing that there are more important things in life than work. I, mean, work is important. You know what else is important? Being chill for a few minutes.
I think this country would greatly benefit from a true nap ethic. I like to think of myself as a pioneer of adult naptime. I’m not saying I think there should be a mandatory nap law, but I’d definitely sign a petition supporting it.
The first step to broader nap acceptance is to, you know, nap. Give yourself the simple gift of finding fifteen minutes in your day to close your eyes and rest your body. It can be hard to carve out the time, but it is worth it if you can. Find a quiet spot: a stairwell, a bathroom stall, an office couch. I am a big park bench napper, for instance. And, then, steal a few delicious minutes of slumber. Do it again the next day. And the day after that.
All we need is a few million of us to do this on the regular and we can change this stressed-out nation of overachievers of ours for the better. Imagine a world where everyone—cop, and waiter, factory worker and hairstylist, doctor and mattress company blogger—are encouraged to step away from whatever we’re doing for a restorative nap, which is nature’s reboot.
I mean, the benefits of an American nap tradition would be manifold. First, we’d all be better rested. When people are well-rested, they perform better in work and in life. Second, we’d all be more mellow, man. Lordy, we are a frazzled union.
Many years later I ran into the boss whose desk I slept under. He was my ex-boss by then, as I had moved on to other jobs. I told him about my naps in his office and he was amused by the story. He then had a confession of his own: He, too, took naps. But his employees were constantly knocking on his door when he was in his office. So he frequently took power naps in the supply closet on an old rickety folding chair. He’d put his feet up on a bucket, tilt the chair back slightly, close his eyes… and drift away for a quarter of an hour or so.
Then we both smiled at each other. The revolution will need nap pillows.