The necessity of napping

I didn’t used to be a napper.

Growing up, my dad used to take a daily marathon nap after work and heaven help us should he have to *do* anything during that 45 minutes. As an energy-filled teenager, I never understood the necessity to nap, given that I hopped from AP English, to calculus study sessions, to soccer practice, to homework, to hours of playing Zelda with my brothers. I got good grades, always finished my homework on time, made varsity soccer, and still managed to function on 3-4 hours of sleep per night. I didn’t need naps, for God’s sake. They were clearly for babies and middle-aged men (sorry dad).

But then, I hit college and somehow my superhuman schedule caught up with me … hard.  With a full load of honors courses (with the accompanying reading load that only an English major can appreciate), a job at the university library, and an even more time-consuming job as a senior editor at the school newspaper, I ran myself pretty thin most days. As I’m insanely hard on myself, I refused to let anything suffer. School was important, and so I never missed a class or assignment, or slacked on my reading. I hardly called in sick to my library job, and drove myself to achieve one of the only undergraduate supervisor positions. And I loved working for the newspaper, so I never hardly complained when my editing workload required 40-50 hours of work per week.

By my senior year, the only way I could function was to integrate napping into my daily schedule. A few times a week, I would return to my dorm after work/class around 4:30, eat dinner by myself (no crowded dining halls for me), watch a half hour of Food Network, and then take a 30-minute power nap on our incredibly uncomfortable futon. By the time I woke up, I was still groggy but the nap served the equivalent of quick douse with cold water: my head was clear and I felt like I could move again. By 4 p.m. most days, I felt like my body/mind had hit a brick wall. It wasn’t motivation or listlessness; I knew what needed to be done and goddamit, I wanted to do it. However, I needed that hour of dead time in order to restart my engines, so to speak. Give the gears some time to rest so that everything would run cleanly the rest of the day.

I didn’t really need naps working at Half Price last year. Sure it was tiring—being on your feet for 8 hours will do that. But after those 8 hours, I was done.  I could go home, put my feet up, read a book, watch trashy television shows and just veg.

Working for Patch, however, has brought me back to my college days—at least, schedule-wise (there have been no frat parties that I’m aware of).  There is no such thing as the 8-hour workday. Sure, there are some days where I can afford to take the morning off or shut my computer at 4:30 and call it a day. But most of the time, I’m working from 9-5, going to a city meeting from 7-9, then writing the story from 9-midnight. That’s not a lot of downtime, and if you work that kind of schedule long enough, your body is going to hit plenty of brick walls.

I’ve always said that one of the biggest problems working from home isn’t that you’ll be distracted by the comforts of home, but that you’ll work too much. Since your couch is your office, there’s really no such thing as “down time.” Unless you construct hard and fast walls between work/home life, burnout is quick to descend. All that work will also send your body into a tired frenzy, and so I’m relieved to say that I’ve re-discovered the necessity of napping as part of my everyday routine.

Luckily, working from home means I have the liberty to take my naps when I need them. Plus, even though I sometimes pine for the office life of 9-to-5’s, I may be one of the lucky ones. A 2007 NASA study found that even a 26-minute nap can boost your work performance by 34 percent. Sleeping at least 20 minutes boosts your alertness and motor skills, sleeping 40 minutes increases memory, and a 90-minute nap helps your creativity.

So more people should be napping, which means people that CAN (like, me) should be taking advantage of this as much as I possibly can. However, a big part of napping is allowing yourself to take that 30-minute or hour-long break. For a workaholic like myself, that’s a tough pill to swallow. Just now, for example, I woke up from a nap and I feel FABULOUS. However, I’m beating myself up because I have a story to write for tomorrow and I have a city commission meeting to attend in two hours.

So, a tenuous balance? Sure. But one that I feel needs to be struck sooner rather than later.

What about everyone else? Who else integrates napping into their work-from-home life?


2 thoughts on “The necessity of napping

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