Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Napping: Difficult But Worth It

"A cup of strong coffee might make you feel wide awake, but a small study suggests that for improved physical and mental performance, an afternoon nap works better." OK, but then the short article goes on to say the subjects napped from 1-3pm. That's not a NAP, that's a full on siesta. Of course you're going to rock out on cognitive tests after going through a full REM cycle, but how is that going to be applied practically? Who's gonna nap for two hours on anything but a weekend?

The weekday is when you need a nap to get all the annoying money-earning cognition done. But in a weekday, you're lucky if you can find a way to close your eyes for 20 minutes. You have to have an office door you can lock- or, if you are really desperate, be the type who can recline the driver's seat of the car and sleep.

Luckily, I can do both, and I always have a free period in the afternoon. (Well, a period with no students where I'm supposed to get actual work done.) I used to get sinus infections a lot, and I had to nap to make it through the day. I need that less, but I still keep all my napping supplies handy. Sometimes, to survive that last hour of work with 26 energetic and/or lethargic pre-teens, I just have to lie down and let my brain rest.
Here's how I do it:

1. I always put a rug in my classroom so I have a good napping surface- I kid you not.
2. At 1:05 pm, I lock my classroom door, shut the shades, and get out my napping pad and pillow. The napping pad is a superthick exercise mat.
3. I set my phone alarm, cover myself with my jacket, and curl up and try to fall asleep. My closet is a little too small to keep a blanket and a pillow, so the coat works fine.

Sometimes I don't actually fall asleep, but the full-on body relaxation helps me feel better, and at least I know I tried. And, even if I wake up feeling groggy, I know I got a little rest, and I take solace in that and muddle through.

Occasionally a co-worker will ask to borrow my napping pad and/or just lie on my rug, because for some reason, teachers insist on going to work when we're sick, or maybe we're just sick a lot. I'm freaking sick right now. I managed to sleep for two hours tonight before my coughing took over. That's why I'm writing this at 1:33 am. I couldn't stop coughing and I felt bad for keeping my husband up, so I might as well enjoy myself out in the living room. My friend/co-worker is sleeping in our guest bed, because even though I'm still sick, I feel better than I have the past few weeks, so we did our weekly Tuesday "Biggest Loser" girls' TV and gossip night.

If I go to work tomorrow, which I think I will, I can guarantee you I'll use that napping pad. Just knowing I have it makes me able to go in to work, because I know there are two parts of the day where I can try to nap for 30 minutes. It involves skipping meetings and/or not getting work done, but it means I can make it through the day- and maybe even be a good teacher while I'm at it.

I love napping. I have always been very good at it, and have even been known to set my alarm and get into bed for just 5 minutes at a time in my life when I really needed some extra sleep (counselor at an amazing writing camp for high schoolers). Even those few minutes of eye closure refreshed me, and then I was off to teach my Irish dancing or video magazine elective- two things I knew almost nothing about, but learned enough to teach. 

I can nap anywhere- Starbucks, outdoors, my car, the couch, in front of people- I don't care.

Shoot! I Just saw this napping kit, and got excited, then I realized it's for a BABY! Adults need napping kits too, and that's why I keep my napping arsenal at work.

Related article:
"Some Respect, Please, for the Afternoon Nap" by Lisa Belkin about napping at work.

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