By Lisa Sugarman
I just did something I haven’t done since I was in pre-school, and lemme tell you, it felt just about as good doing it now as it did back then.
And were it not for the big, bold title of my column giving it away, you may’ve thought that what I did was walk out into waist-deep water at the beach and pee in the ocean because the bathrooms were just too far away. But obviously that’s not the case.
Right there in the middle of my day, I just stopped cold, laid down, and took a nap.
Now, the fact that I did this immediately after a ten-mile run is more or less irrelevant. I didn’t actually have to lie down. I could’ve slogged my way through the rest of the afternoon, but my body was begging and pleading with my brain to hit pause. So I did. And much to my surprise, it was incredibly revealing.
Did I actually fall asleep at two o’clock on a Sunday afternoon in August on the chaise on my deck? Of course not. Don’t be ridiculous. Who can do that?! But I think I came pretty close, and that’s epic for me.
Actually, just the simple fact that I laid down in a horizontal position, with both my feet off the floor, right smack in the middle of the afternoon, with my eyes more or less closed, was a major event for me. (If I’m remembering right, the last time it happened was in 2008 when I had knee surgery and took one too many Percocets. And that put me squarely into a state far beyond a quick nod-off. That knocked me straight into unconsciousness.)
See, like most people, more often than not I tend to muscle through my days. And because I’m a working mom, with a big fat list of stuff I have to do every day, there isn’t an awful lot of nap time built into my schedule. That’s just the reality. Not to mention the fact that even if I could carve out eleven minutes to sneak into a dark linen closet and spoon with some big, thirsty bath towels, I’d never be able to fall asleep.
That’s because my big problem, like a lot of other people I know, is that I’ve never found the off switch for my brain, so naps tend to be worthless for me.
I mean, where’s the value in lying there, wide awake but with your eyes closed, stressing over all the dress shirts you still need to iron and all the electronic bill payments that still need to be teed up?
Look, I know that naps are proven to have a pretty good list of benefits. Like if you ask the folks down at the National Sleep Foundation, they’ll tell you that naps are proven to restore alertness, enhance performance creativity, cognitive function and memory, and reduce mistakes and accidents. Not to mention, they’re a quick and easy way of getting some relaxation and rejuvenating yourself so you can forge on.
In my own life, though, I had more or less written naps off completely after the first grade, thinking that unless I could fall into some sort of significant REM-like state every time they were useless. And because of it, I’ve kept them off my lineup all this time. Because for me, being able to clear my mind on demand and drift off into a delicious little sleep cocoon has just never been possible.
But what I learned today was that I was wrong.
I don’t know, maybe the stars were all aligned perfectly to enable me to see the true benefits of just stopping and resting. Or maybe I was just paying attention at the right time and actually listening to my body, which I also seldom do. Whatever it was, my spontaneous little siesta made me realize that it’s just as important for us moms and dads and grownups to stop and recharge as it is for kids.
Just think of it like this…when your cell phone’s power is depleted, it goes into Battery Save Mode and loses most of its functionality until it’s charged again. Well, we’re the same way.
Most of us can usually get by on a partial charge. Usually. But even a little bit of juice (or, in this case, rest) gives us enough power to keep going. Even if we’re not at one hundred percent.
For me, the end result was that my little time-out refreshed me, even in spite of the fact that I never really fell asleep. And because of it, I’ve discovered is that there are rejuvenating properties hidden within the essence of a nap, even if you don’t actually nod off. The thing is, I let my body relax and even though my mind was still cranking away, the downtime was beneficial because it put my body at rest, if only for a short time.
So while I absolutely still believe that naps are critical for the development of young kids—physically and cognitively—I’m now a believer that they’re not just for kids anymore.
The other thing I’ve realized is that maybe it’s a good thing after all that, as an adult, I can never seem to truly fall asleep when I nap. I mean, can you imagine one of my kids walking in the house and finding me curled up like a fetus on the couch with my thumb in my mouth, drool running down my cheek? I’d be all over Instagram in less than ninety seconds.
Lisa Sugarman lives just north of Boston, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at facebook.com/ItIsWhatItIsColumn. She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is available on Amazon.com and at select Whole Foods Market stores.