I spent the better part of this afternoon napping. It’s become a rare luxury for me, since I got myself a day job. But prior to that, I napped daily — partly out of necessity due to the insomnia I have battled for most of my adult life. Taking so many naps at times when I should have been working, I learned a thing or two about how to do it effectively. So, here is my recipe for the perfect afternoon nap.
First you need a few things:
- A comfortable place to sleep. I tend to use my magic sofa. It’s magic because I have yet to meet anyone who can lay upon it and not fall asleep.
- A television and (optional) DVD player. Before I got rid of cable, I would time my naps for whenever Star Trek was on. Now I tend to select a well-worn DVD from my collection. Presumably, a radio would do the trick, as well.
- A bit of discipline. The need for this will be apparent shortly.
The first ingredient, the venue, is obvious in its importance. Many might choose their bed, but I find that a truly satisfying nap is best taken on a sofa. It feels more like stolen sleep that way. It helps that my sofa is so perfect for naps, but even when I’ve napped on other couches, it has always been better than when I’ve napped in a bed.
So, why the television? The key to an amazing nap is to make sure you awake without an alarm, but that you don’t over sleep. When I was taking daily naps, I found about 50 minutes to be the ideal length of time. What I also found was that having something on the TV that I knew very well helped me to keep time in my sleep. Alexander Courage’s theme to Star Trek, because I’ve watched the episodes so many times, became a kind of lullaby for me as I was satisfied that I wasn’t missing anything I hadn’t seen before. However, I’ve napped in front of baseball games (less good for timing since they tend to drag on) and even The Matrix (today’s choice). Usually, I sleep right through the very loud, very violent scene in the building lobby of the latter. I find that movies are better now that my naps happen only on weekends, when I want to get a bit more than an hour of sleep. Whatever you choose, be sure to make the volume quiet enough that any sudden increases in volume (like an explosion) will not jolt you awake, but loud enough that you are not distracted from sleep straining to hear dialogue. If the “entertainment” is known well enough to you, the dialogue itself won’t keep you awake.
Now, here’s where the discipline comes in, though. Once you’ve awoken from the nap, it can be very tempting to watch whatever is on the TV or even to close your eyes again. While this will lead to more sleep, I promise you will awake groggy and feeling worse than before the nap. No, the secret is, as soon as you awake, to force yourself up and at whatever you need to be doing next. If you do, you’ll feel recharged and ready to go.
And that, dear readers, is my secret to a perfect nap.