Sunday, June 8, 2008

Never Underestimate the Power of a Nap

Sleep is one of those things I wish I could skip. I do know I need to sleep and as I get older, I seem to need more and more of it. But I keep remembering a time when I could function just fine on 3 or 4 hours of sleep a night. I sure wish I could do that now. I was (much) younger when I thought I was doing well on so little sleep. It was when my daughter was little and I was participating in quite a few craft shows each year so there was incentive to make the most out of every hour. Many nights, I'd stay up later than the rest of the family in order to have the quiet time I needed to finish handcrafting the items I hoped to sell at the shows. It was refreshing to have no one needing anything from me, no phone ringing, and no washer or dryer calling to me. Even my pets would be quietly curled up at my feet and it was blissful.
Staying up until the wee hours of the night became a habit I'm still trying to break. There's something about the quiet of the night that makes me feel as if I finally have MY time. As much as I'd like it to be so, I can no longer function well on just a few hours of sleep. On most days, even after staying up late, I rise at a reasonable hour and begin household routines. Sometimes when I awake, I wish I could sleep longer and still be able to accomplish my daily tasks. Then it occurs to me I could take an afternoon nap if I decided I needed one - but I almost never follow through with that thought.
One reason I don't often take a nap during the day is that I feel guilty doing so. I don't know why I should feel guilty. I just do. Another reason is that I've always thought if I took a nap during the day, I would be wide awake when it was time to retire in the evening. I've begun to think that's just an old tale, because in the end, it actually doesn't seem to matter whether I've had a nap or not. I'm always tired in the evenings. Even if I'm weary to the bone, I'm rarely ready to go to bed at night. I think of all sorts of things I didn't accomplish during the day, as if staying up later would allow me the time to do that. I may or may not get those things done if I stay up late. Actually, it's rare that I get any substantial work done in those late hours.
It pains me to admit I often fall asleep in the recliner even as I'm wistfully thinking of things I should do before going to bed. I have sometimes dozed off and on, thus needing to rewind the VCR tape over and over because I couldn't keep my eyes open long enough to watch the Oprah show I'd recorded. I've often allowed the VCR to run to the very end of its tape and sat there snoozing even as the TV screen went blank. I've napped in a chair until dawn with my street clothes on, then hurriedly changed into night clothes so my hubby would think I'd simply gotten up before he did. I don't really think I've fooled him though. He knows me all too well.
There have been times I've even fallen soundly asleep with a book or magazine in my hand. A few times, I fell asleep while I was sewing and it's a wonder I didn't stab myself with the needle. I can't count the times my hubby has come into the livingroom and asked if I was sleeping, to which I answered, "Of course not!", though he and I both knew very well that I had been. He has learned to just turn off the TV and the light and go back to bed. If I'm so tired, then why don't I just go to bed earlier?
I have no answer unless it might be that I'm in denial about how tired I am, how much sleep I really need, and about how much I can truly accomplish in the wee hours. I also keep remembering that I used to be able to stay up for a very long time, yet do all the things I needed to do the following day - without needing to take a nap. I have a difficult time admitting I can't do that anymore. So why don't I just stop and take a nap if I need one during the day so maybe I wouldn't fall asleep in the recliner at night? That's a good question, but one for which I have no answer.
This afternoon, I did take a nap and it felt great. I had a headache today and just couldn't seem to keep my eyes open, so instead of struggling, I decided to lie down for a bit. I slept for the better part of two hours and when I awoke, I felt refreshed. My headache was gone and I was ready to tackle some things that needed to be done around here. I was in a much better mood than I would have been had I not taken time for a nap. Maybe I should nap more often! What would it hurt?
I wonder why we seem to think naps are an essential part of childhood, yet some of us tend to frown on napping after we've grown into adulthood? Wouldn't it actually make more sense to sleep less when we have lots of energy, as we do when we're kids, and sleep more as we get older?
We should never underestimate the power of a nap.

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