Saturday, April 17, 2010

Napping is for Cats...and Other Normal People

I don't nap.  I have never napped well.  I have never slept particularly well either.  As a child, I dreaded the announcement of bedtime.  Going to bed without feeling sleepy, just because the clock struck 8:00, was torture.  I wasn't sleepy at night, so why would I want to sleep in the middle of the day?

When I was a toddler, my mother took me to the pediatrician and burst into tears. "She never sleeps!" The doctor ordered my mother to install a lock on the outside of my bedroom door, lock me in the room for a few hours in the afternoon, and take a nap herself.

Cats have no problem napping.  In fact, they sleep anywhere between 14 and 18 hours each day.  They can fall asleep at anytime.  Anywhere.

On cozy laps.

In strange positions.
Even in the most uncomfortable places.

Snuggled together.

Or all alone.

I've never understood the need to nap.

When I first met the Husband, he would often fall asleep on a couch in the middle of the day.  I thought that was strange.  But I attributed it to the late nights of college students, especially college students in love who wandered the campus streets just to spend a few more moments together.  I have to admit that I thought maybe he was just being lazy.

And then I met his family.  At any given moment between noon and 8:00pm at least one member of his family of six was sacked out in the busy living room in an armchair or on the couch.  And that was amidst conversation, televised football, the clatter of dishes in the kitchen, and some sort of brotherly wrestling match just inches from the napper's face.  Maybe this strange need for napping was genetic.

I've tried to nap.

But I toss and turn.  Just as I am on the edge of the edge of drifting off a car horn blares, a phone rings, someone speaks in the next room, an ant sneezes.  I have just wasted an hour of my day, laying in a bed, without the refreshing end result of restful sleep.

On the one or two occasions that I actually fall asleep during an attempted nap, I wake up feeling horrible.  No, worse than horrible.  I feel like I've been hit by a truck and then run over repeatedly by the line of army tanks behind the truck.

My first thoughts are, "Where am I?  What time is it?  What day is it?  What am I late for?"  I think it's morning, and I'm thoroughly confused.

And then I try to move.

It's as if someone injected liquid steel into my veins while I was sleeping, and the bed is electromagnetic.  After intense struggle, I swing my legs off the side of the bed and attempt to stand.  Waves of nausea and dizziness make it nearly impossible to stumble across the room.

When I described this feeling to the Husband, his reply was, "That's how I feel every morning."

Not me.  Every morning, I wake up before the alarm goes off.  No matter what time it's set for, I am ready for that get-up sound.  I don't think I'd ever really need an alarm set for the rest of my life, but it's there as a back up.  So I lay in bed, waiting patiently, enjoying the final moments of quiet before the beep.  Then I spring up and start the day.

Apparently not everyone is like that.

Well, today I had rare napping success.  While reading, I felt the fluttering eyelids, and I took advantage of the freedom of an unscheduled Saturday afternoon.  I closed the blackout shades, armed myself with my Brookstone eyemask and earplugs, and I dove into bed.  I actually slept.  And I woke up without an nap hangover.  Victory!

But I wondered why.

An article called How to Nap from the Boston Globe helped me understand sleep cycles just a little bit better.  Apparently, short naps of 45 minutes or less keep you in a light sleep stage, leaving you feeling refreshed when you awaken.  Anything more than 45 minutes long takes you into a deep, slow-wave sleep stage, and waking up in that stage creates sleep inertia and that horrendous feeling of disorientation.  Napping for 90 minutes to two hours, however, allows you to pass through a full sleep cycle, waking without ill-effects.

The article also claims that we are programed to sleep twice a day.  The Husband will LOVE that research.  There goes the laziness theory.

Am I a napping convert?

No, I think I'll leave the napping to the cats.  But I sure do feel a little more refreshed today.

1 comment:

  1. I'm with Ted. This is one thing we DEFINITELY don't have in common! Took a lovely 3-hr nap today and I feel great! Now I can stay up until 2! :)