My mother felt such a stigma attached to napping that she never took a nap in her life. She would, however, announce, with a paperback in her hand, “I’m going to go read my book,” and then she’d head to her bed and close the door to her bedroom. Judging from the sounds emanating from her room, she must’ve mastered the art of reading while sawing logs, thereby never having to feel any guilt from violating the Protestant Work Ethic. I wish my mother could have admitted that napping was a pleasure (guilty or not) that she was entitled to—that everyone is entitled to.
What better way to get through a hazzzy, lazzzy afternoon? Why make it hard when it could be so eazzzy? In the form of the siesta, naps are coping traditions for entire nations. Why lumber when you can slumber?
A nap is something you “take,” which reminds us it’s a delicious theft, a wanton self-indulgence, a forbidden self-pampering—like playing hooky or eating a pint of ice-cream or engaging in lunchtime sex.
By the way, it’s easy to flirt with a nap; just give it forty winks.
In recent years, the concept of a “power nap” has done a lot to remove the stigma. Naps no longer necessarily mark you as old or doddering since young up-and-comers indulge in them and even tout them as keys to their success. Naps, they rightly point out, reinvigorate you and make you more productive. Remember this: To get ahead, go to bed.
Sometimes, it just makes logical sense to nap. I’ve attended a summer camp for writers for many years, and the night life there is off the hook. Long past my usual bedtime there are lively conversations; wine, beer and mixed drinks; general laughter; live music; games; dancing; and even parties with formal entertainment—sometimes, all of this at once. I don’t want to miss anything, but I do need some sleep. Fortunately, there’s usually a mid-afternoon lull in all the work and fun—the perfect time for some downtime.
I taught college English for thirty-one years, and I can assure you that one of the main problems many of my students faced was sleep-deprivation. At least I think that’s why they were falling asleep in my class. That’s why I propose that all institutions of higher learning offer the course Napping 101. Exams will be graded based on how quickly students fall asleep, how deeply and restfully they sleep, and how long they sleep. Imagine how students who ordinarily panic about tests will look forward to this course’s final exam. Partying late the night before will actually qualify as prepping.
Lately, the pandemic has focused attention on the most important rationale for taking regular naps, which is the well-known fact that adequate sleep boosts the immune system. Those with stronger immune systems are better able to resist catching COVID (and other illnesses) and therefore are less likely to add to the overcrowding of hospitals and the overcrowding of morgues. Those who take naps are thus helping America’s entire healthcare system as well as helping maintain its workforce. You’re entitled to feel wonderfully virtuous every single time you grab a quick snooze. Napping makes you a true patriot. That’s why when my wife tells me she’s going to lie down, I always say, “Thank you for your service.”
Nap for yourself. Nap for America. This pandemic has gone on far too long. It’s time to wake up—and start napping.
Bill Spencer is author of Uranus Is Always Funny: Short Essays to Make You Laugh