Written by Dale Suderman Wednesday, 06 February 2008 16:13
“I’m going home early to take a nap,” I tell my co-workers every Friday in the early afternoon. They laugh and debate if this is a further sign of my approaching dotage or an extreme prolongation of my childhood.
(I am happy this question is still in play—am I a big baby or an old geezer? Combining these two ages is the essence of mature adulthood.)
I come from a family of nap takers. Even during the busiest harvest season my father would stretch out on the cool living room floor for 30 minutes after the noon meal. For him, I think retirement meant guilt-free napping. He no longer had the anxiety of wondering if an approaching Kansas thunderstorm meant a nap was not the best use of his time.
Naps are pretty much wasted on small children. They do give mothers and pre-school caregivers a break from toddlers justified by the useful fiction that it the child who needs the break.
In actuality naps are an adult task in much of the civilized world. The siesta is much more than a Spanish phenomenon. Most of the peoples of the Mediterranean and much of the Asian world take a little catnap after the noon meal. In Paris many shops and restaurants close for a few hours after lunch. Vietnamese workers have an amazing capacity to close their eyes and stretch out even in crowded streets.
Alas, the kill-joy Protestant work ethic taught Americans such foolish aphorisms as “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”
There is no space for naps in this silly wisdom from Ben Franklin.
Centuries from now, historians will write, “The American Empire was once very powerful but it declined and was slowly replaced by civilizations that understood the need for naps.”
There is an archaic statement in our personnel policy that forbids employees to sleep on the job. My coworkers and my supervisors do not understand naps as a foretaste of an advanced civilization. They waste their lunch breaks by going for walks or to the gym to work out or even do yoga. My own logic of a hearty lunch followed by a power nap does not seem to cross their minds.
So for now I am seemly doomed to have naps only on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. On those days I can turn on the TV to C-Span or some mindless political debate and stretch out on the couch and turn off my mind for 60 minutes. To sleep more than 60 minutes can produce insomnia but less than 60 minutes produces irritability and churlishness.
My office is private and large enough for napping. But how can I get past the policy of no sleeping on the job?
The answer may lie in the therapeutic benefits of practicing yoga for physical and mental well being. My medical doctor does seem to be in tune with New Age remedies. I am going to ask her for a medical order that I be allowed to practice yoga for one hour each day while at work.
But unlike yoga devotees who contort their bodies into the “lotus position” or the “crane standing on one foot” position, I shall pioneer the gentle yoga position of “the bear hibernating in winter.” This requires one to lie prone, close both eyes and assume a mental state of mindlessness.
The great American sage and guru, Yogi Berra, said, “I take a two-hour nap between one and four.” We ignore his wisdom of the ages at our own peril.
You can contact the author at Dale.Suderman@gmail.com.