There's A Nap For That
Am I Napping Too Often Or Too Little? Are Naps Good For You? How Can I Stop Napping In The Day?
If taking naps were a sought after skill, I’d be highly employable. I’d probably be CEO of my own corporation by now. Scratch that, if napping was an olympic sport, I’d be taking home gold each year. Hell, if sleeping in the day was attractive, I’d be fighting back the opposite sex with a barge pole! You get the point. I’m a chronic napper. Which makes me somewhat an expert in the field.
Trust me, when it comes to lack of energy, nighttime insomnia, overactive brain, stress, depression, anxiety, and an overall struggle with life, you could say I’m well-versed in a firsthand kinda way. In this article I’m going to dive into the wonderful world of napping and all it entails.
We’ll be exploring topics like: is napping good for you? When should you nap? When shouldn’t you nap? How long should you nap for? Well fluff up your pillows and tuck yourself in, folks, because today we’re changing the sheets! Flipping the mattress? Sleeping on the job? Okay, sorry, I’m clearly off my pun-game today so we’ll start again. Today we’re unpacking all there is to know about naps, and I thought what better way than to explore all the different types of naps that threaten us on a daily basis.
The Many Types Of ‘Nap’
The ‘Depression’ Nap
When we are suffering from mental health difficulties we tend to feel tired, rundown, stressed, and void of energy. It’s alluring to bunch ourselves up under the sheets and switch our minds off. Nothing to look at, nothing to listen to, nothing to attempt to focus on, nothing at all. We’re desperate for that brief respite, those moments of absolute nothingness going on in our minds.
When we sleep we’re floating in time and space, without thought or feeling—consciously anyway—and this makes napping a relief from all the noise. Does it work? Yes, of course. But does it fix anything? Well, not really.
During periods of difficulty, be they physical, emotional, or psychological, it’s important to take as much time as we can resting and processing whatever it is going on that triggered those feelings in the first place, but on the other hand, we benefit greatly from making plans and taking action to get ourselves back on our feet. If taking naps is standing in the way of other important aspects of life, such as our hygiene, nutrition, or finances, we could be worsening our own mental health by adding a stack of stresses around us which are all there waiting when we come back up for air.
So what can we do? Be patient with ourselves. Be understanding. Take a nap if we want to take a nap. But don’t do it at the expense of our own wellbeing in other areas. Making sure to drink enough water, a long soak in a hot bath, and a short walk out in the fresh air are all as important and nourishing to our mental health as a short forty-winks.
The ‘I Didn’t Sleep Well Last Night’ Nap
So you got into bed last night and finally got around to that new show on Netflix everyone’s been raving about, and before you know it it’s 3am, your strained, red eyes are bulging out your head, you have a snack-tummy peeking out from beneath your pyjama bottoms, and you regret all your life decisions. But it’ll be okay, you can go about your day as usual and steal an hour or two as soon as you get a spare moment, right? Wrong!
This type of napping can very quickly become a self-imposed trap that’s very uncomfortable to escape from. Don’t get me wrong we all have a crappy night sleep sometimes, (whether it be from a Netflix binge, a family emergency, a restless mind, or your neighbours friggin’ wind-chime in the middle of an all-night storm,) and it can make the next day awful to go through, but more often than not it’s better to muscle through and make it to the next evening before curling up beneath the sheets. Why? Because you’ll either sleep too much and struggle again the next night, or sleep too little and end up groggier and overall more uncomfortable than you were before—then still hit a second wind when the moon comes up! Trust me when I say to avoid napping because of a bad night sleep.
The ‘Lunchtime Slump’ Nap
Now this is personally one of my most hateful afflictions, and it’s the reason I’m writing this article now instead of burying my head between the comfort of four cushions. Regardless of when you get up, despite a great night sleep, it hits somewhere between noon and 2PM and your eyelids feel like they’re made of lead. The dreaded lunchtime slump is upon us. If this sounds like you then welcome to the club, friend, I’m right here with you.
The lunchtime slump is often a sign of many other elements such as a lack of adequate nutrition or a ton of unwanted stress rattling around those busy minds of ours. Giving in to the slump quickly becomes a habit, which then makes it even harder to stop. We just end up in this perpetual nightmare of tiredness and restlessness. Not good. Not good for anyone.
If you suffer from the lunchtime slump the same way I do, there’s a few things we can do to beat it. The first one is be strong and don’t give in. Under no circumstances allow yourself anywhere near a bed, a comfy chair, or anywhere that makes sleep remotely possible. So public transport should be fine unless you’re totally insane.
Next up I’d recommend taking a look at your diet and making the adjustments that we all know we should already. Don’t drink so much caffeine in the morning that we crash, make sure we eat a balance of protein, carbs, and fats to nourish us throughout the day, drink more water, ensure we aren’t taking on so much responsibility that we become bogged down with stress (See the ‘shutdown’ nap below). If we focus on these things we end up improving our energy, mental function, focus, creativity, and like a crap-ton more good stuff as we go. It’s a win/win.
Finally, until the changes set in and until the habits are broken, we’re gonna just have to supplement our naps with other things. Ten minutes of meditation (or a micro-nap) perhaps, a brisk walk outside, a cold shower. Anything that will reboot us and snap us out of that tiresome, awful, lunchtime slump, and set us up for an afternoon of productivity.
The ‘Shutdown’ Nap
When we overload our brains with too much activity, its natural reaction is to want to shut down. Attempting to process a billion things at once is ill-advised, it seems, which is why I am a firm advocate of the one-step-at-a-time philosophy. Wherever we are, wherever we want to be, whatever goals we have, we only have to focus on the step ahead. Sounds simple doesn’t it. But we’re human beings, which means we’re damn crazy.
Crazy or not, we do need to be careful not to overload our list of responsibilities to the point of breaking. Imagine a rubber band. Safe, efficient, reliable. Put too much strain on that little desk-filler and what happens? It snaps. And our minds do the same. So stopping being a yes-man. (I’m not assuming your gender, I just dropped the ‘hu’ from ‘human.’ You’re hu-less right now. As greyed out as it gets. Five points for photo-editing puns?)
We need to ensure that we don’t take too much on at once, and go through our lives one step at a time. One foot in front of the other. You know, instead of hiding from all our responsibilities by sleeping, then finding that we have more to do in less time than we had before. See how napping our way through procrastination actually worsens the problem?
All that said, I’ll paraphrase a Nordic proverb for you so I can never be accused of not being a hypocrite. “The man who lays awake thinking on his problems will find the same problems there when the sun rises, with less energy to deal with them.” Or something like that, it’s not like I’m a modern viking or anything. (only joking, I am, so click the link when you’re done reading this.)
The ‘Curl Up In A Ball Until It All Goes Away’ Nap
This isn’t too dissimilar from the last one. In fact, it’s like the deformed child of all the nap-types listed above. It’s what happens when our mental health is shot, our nutrition sucks, we’re bogged down by stress, our partners just left us, we have no money, bank managers are lined up outside our doors with pitchforks and torches, and we just don’t want to deal. We can’t even.
And really, a lot of us are right here, right now, as you’re reading this. It’s so tempting to just curl up in a ball and sleep it all away. Deal with it tomorrow. Or the next day. Or next week. Or eventually. It’s hard. It is. Life chronically sucks. The only things guaranteed to us are suffering and death. But that’s the point. The rest is down to us. The happiness, the success, the fun, the family time, the financial security, the goals, the hopes, the dreams. They’re entirely up to us. It’s our job to pick up all that suffering up and make the best of it all. Form the chaos into some kind of recognisable shape, so that we can see what we’ve achieved, what we’ve worked for, and we can maybe help others to do the same.
I got myself all nap-ready a couple hours ago. Had a bath, put on my pjs, drew my curtains, fluffed my pillows. But then I stopped myself and thought, no. I’ve had enough. And instead I’ve created this piece of writing that I really hope finds you in your time of need. I’m less tired, believe it or not, and I’m way past that lunchtime slump. My finances aren’t fixed and I’ve not undone all my wrongs in the world, but I’m a step closer, and I’ve created something. Maybe I’ll even help a few people along the way. That’s the plan anyway.
Now onto the bonus round…
Though I don’t recommend this one at all… At. All.
Is Napping Good For You?
This question is a tough one to answer. In some ways yes, in other ways no. It all depends on your own personal circumstances, your reasons for wanting to nap, the way you nap, and a few other factors.
A lot of experts agree that napping is good for you. Improved motivation and memory function, an increase in job performance, an elevated mood, and the easing of stress are all boasted by sleep professionals. But personally I’d err on the side of caution, especially if you fall into any of the above categories. Napping while on holiday or topping up to a full eight hours because you don’t get it overnight is one thing, but sleeping just so you aren’t awake is most certainly not healthy.
Instead try utilising that time to work on some of the things that are bogging you down. Maybe get out for a walk, or take a cold shower. Go for lunch with your friends and family or do something creative. Sketch, write, whatever. Break those habits and move forward into a better version of yourself. A happier version.
And that brings us to the end of this article. Thank you for reading, and of course, happy napping!
About the author
An avid writer from the UK with a passion for words! Whether I'm posting my musings to social media or creating longform content for the masses, You can bet I'm somewhere trying to make sense of this wonderful chaos we call the universe.