I'm going to dedicate this to my writing friend Aislinn Kearns, who was only last week bemoaning the fact she cannot nap. I, on the other hand, am what you’d call a professional-napper. To some, naps are a luxury, to others an inconvenience, but to me they’re an essential part of my daily life, my rhythm, my creative flow and my general well-being. I am a huge fan of the nap (is it any wonder both of my kids were still nap-takers - three hours a day - until they started school?!).
However, napping is a serious sport, and over the years, I’ve refined my napping practices to make sure I’m really getting the most out of these micro-kips.
First of all, never nap after 4pm. Push through, have a little coffee if you need it, and go to bed early instead. As for over-napping, it might seem like a good idea but it’s actually a disaster. Long naps counter-intuitively seem to zap you of energy, so you run the risk of waking up feeling disgruntled and as though you’ve been roused from your night-sleep. I recommend a twenty minute nap as the optimum, however you’ll need to allow a half hour – I’ve got it down to an art. Five minutes to fall asleep, five minutes to doze after my alarm’s gone off.
Which brings me to another pro-tip: always set an alarm. You do not want to forget to pick your kids up because you’ve slept past 3pm (teachers tend to frown on that, ahem).
So, how to learn to fall asleep on command? It’s all about two things. Comfort, and breathing.
Choose a good spot to nap – I like my sofa rather than my bed (to differentiate between my night time sleep and my quick kip). However, I bring my pillows to the sofa so I can achieve maximum comfort – it’s like lying on a cloud.
Breathing: I guess this is tied in with meditation, but when I lie down, I force myself to switch off my brain and not think about anything. Not a book I’m writing, not the book I’m reading, not the million and one kid-tasks I have waiting for me, not the washing, not the weekend, not the anything. I think about my breathing: in and out, in and out, in and out, listening to the sound of each exhalation. Sometimes, I imagine each breath out is a colour – purple or grey, seeing it leave my body as I lay still.
It’s important to control your environment too so you can fully relax: turn your phone to flight mode, make sure the room is a comfortable temperature – and isn’t too dark – and trust me on this: set the alarm. Without it, I can’t relax enough to sleep. It’s as though I’m afraid I’m going to be sucked permanently into the nap-vortex.
Finally, accept that napping isn’t a lazy habit: it’s a smart one! I feel 100% refreshed after a nap and I am able to concentrate way better because of them. It’s the battery recharge I need, the mind re-set and the reward for keeping my brain running hard and fast during my work hours.
Who’s with me? Are you a napper or a no-no-nap? Any pro-tips I missed!?