On a summer Friday before I installed my air conditioning, I sat on my bed (sitting was the easiest way to stay cool) and decided to take a nap. More specifically, I accidentally slipped into a delicious 45-minute nap. When I woke up it occurred to me that I hadn’t had an afternoon nap for several years (except on a snow day or a sick day). It was a pleasure to be relaxed enough to just fall asleep, and there was also a clear lack of guilt. Although it occurred to me that I might not be able to sleep that night, the nap was so pleasant (and life was so stressful) that I didn’t waste much time admonishing myself.
Calm as a form of activism is not a new concept, but the stressors of the coronavirus pandemic and ongoing systemic racism can make resting more important than ever for many of us. In fact, Tricia Hersey, activist and founder of the Nap Ministry, established a whole framework of social justice in the truth that deep rest, sleep, contemplation, and dreaming are necessary tools for the liberation of blacks and the breakdown of white supremacy.
While other countries, such as Italy and Spain, consider naps as a facet of their culture, American naps seem to expire after elementary school and reappear when they retire. But naps can be pretty useful at almost every point in our lives. When was the last time you felt free to take a nap? You may sleep fairly regularly, but have never thought about why you restrict your nap to rainy days only. Or maybe you̵
Here’s why a nap can be so beneficial.
The average adult between the ages of 18 and 65 needs about seven to nine hours of sleep each night, SELF previously reported. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 70 million Americans are struggling with sleep problems. The reasons for this are diverse. Many of us have insomnia, sleep apnea, or simply environmental habits and circumstances that keep us awake at night. Whatever the reason, the struggle for enough sleep at night can have a huge impact on how you work during the day, as you may know very well.
Naps are not a substitute for nighttime sleep, but there is strong evidence that naps can improve your performance and alertness. A literature review 2017 published in Sleep medicine explained that the longer you are awake, the more your memory and other cognitive abilities decrease, and that an afternoon nap can help you “recover” by taking away some of this accumulated sleepiness. Sure, seems pretty obvious, but it’s always nice to have solid science by your side.
For this reason – and also because naps can feel luxurious and comfortable – my position is that people should embrace naps more broadly. There is one limitation: Really useful nap is an art form. Taking a nap can help minimize the effects of daytime sleepiness on your mood, concentration, emotional processing, and awareness. However, too much sleep can wake you up at night and exacerbate the underlying sleep problems. For this reason, one of the most important recommendations when people have sleep disorders is to evaluate the day’s nap, explains the Mayo Clinic.