Standing at the kitchen counter, I yawned for the 27th time and thought about making another pot of coffee. (Disclaimer: my coffee is decaf, but I still think of grabbing another cuppa-joe when I’m feeling tired..) I glanced at my to-do list and calendar one more time, noting that nothing fit in the “urgent” category… “Maybe I should have a nap…” I thought to myself.
And I did. This story could just end here, but what fun would that be? Let’s talk about the decades I spent more or less refusing to nap all because I had no clue how to listen to the signals my body was sending me.
Here’s the thing. I still don’t enjoy it. While others wake up from their naps with a smile and stretch, feeling like a million bucks, I wake up like this:
I come out of my slumber, super groggy, laying beside a pile of drool (I don’t drool at night – why during the day?), my mouth is dry, yet my throat is caked in some weird phlemgy concoction. Gross. Everything about it is gross. It takes me at least 15 minutes to snap out of my post-nap grog, at which point I finally get that elated feeling of “oh, that was actually kind of nice…”
My husband is the opposite. He lays his head down whenever he feels that tired feeling creep in. He can nap among the kids playing “The Floor is Lava” and it doesn’t faze him. Our oldest daughter is the same – Napper Extraordinaire. Needless to say, they make the World’s Worst Road-trip Companions.
I have spent the seven years since starting our family, giving my husband a secret sideways glare once his eyes were shut with every nap. Often saying to myself “must be nice to not have a million things to do…” while returning to my form of busy.
Ha. Here’s the crazy thing that took me far too long to learn. He always has a million things to do too. And he is always helping me out around the house and with the kids in every way you can imagine, but he learned the #1 Secret of Adulting way quicker than I did.
#1 Secret of Adulting: Take care of yourself and listen to what your body is saying.
That feeling of exhaustion, fatigue, or “is it bedtime yet??” is your body’s way of saying “SLOW DOWN Tiger…” Your job is to listen to that warning sign, to notice those non-stop yawns, and find a solution to the problem with whatever napping or sleeping change you need to make.
I’m starting to develop a strong dislike for the verb “hustle”. I feel like it’s thrown out there as the answer to all of life’s problems.
- “I have to finish this…”
- “I just have to do one last thing…”
- “You can sleep when you’re dead…”
“Our to-do lists take priority over our physical health and our emotional well-being. Our calendars become the boss of us, and being “soooo tired” because we’re “soooo busy” becomes a badge of honour to wear in our hustle-hustle-hustle culture.”
It’s depressing when you think about it for too long… but I have good news. There’s a secret ingredient that so many cultures around the world understand, and it may be called many different things, but I know it affectionately as “Island Time”.
After getting married, and before starting our family, my husband and I traveled around Central and South America for three months. Sadly, it took us a good three weeks to unwind the tightly wound dependence we had on the clock and feeling productive with our time.
Frustration would set in when we asked “what time will the boat get here?” and were answered with a shrug, a beaming smile, and a “whenever it gets here!”
Or what about when the boat breaks down and the captain looks into the engine compartment with a loud guffaw and another shrug and beaming smile and says “huh, wonder how to fix that..?” It’s like we’re trained to panic and immediately come up with Plan B and Plan C to get us where we need to be ASAP. When on “Island Time”, the answer is to crack another beer, sing some Bob Marley, and make the best of the situation…
Guess what? The boat got where it needed to be. The captain did in fact fix the problem. And the passengers got to spend a laidback, relaxing hour getting to know each other better, laughing and bonding over their most memorable travel stories.
“Island Time” means stopping work mid-day to enjoy a leisurely lunch with the people that matter the most to you, conversation and delicious food being slowly savoured. And of course what is that followed up with?
Siesta! Now, the reality is that our modern-day North-American culture doesn’t allow much grace for this beneficial afternoon “power nap”. A siesta doesn’t have to be long – 20-30 minutes is sufficient. So maybe you can’t “siesta” every single day. But when you can, when your body is physically giving you the warning signals that you’re tired and needing some shut-eye – listen. If you have little ones tugging at you non-stop, either a) nap when they nap (screw the laundry), or b) set them up with whatever annoying show on Netflix or YouTube that they’re currently into. Then find a quiet corner, snuggle up, and forget about the rest of the world momentarily.
(Note: this last step is the hardest. Stay tuned for another article on how to “forget about the rest” – it’s easier said than done, I totally get it…)
Don’t believe me yet? Still a skeptic? I know! Me too… I was an “anti-napper” for SO MANY YEARS.
But how about this science?
- Lack of sleep costs U.S. companies a staggering $63 billion in lost productivity, according to a September 2011 study from the Journal of Sleep.
- Forty-five percent of Americans say that poor or insufficient sleep affected their daily activities at least once in the past seven days, according to the National Sleep Foundation’s inaugural Sleep Health Index™.
- A study done with Greeks found that those that took a 30 minute nap at least three times a week had 37% less risk of dying from a heart-related condition. Among working men their risk of death was reduced 64%!
Well, there you go. I’m still yawning… so I’m going to grab a snuggly blanket, make sure the Littlest is all set up with her annoying YouTube hero, and see if I can catch twenty winks.