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Jon Mark Beilue column - Posted October 27, 2017 10:29 a.m.
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Artwork by Andy Cundiff

There’s power in the nap – at least for some

It is 3:34 p.m. on a Thursday as I type this sentence, and all I know for sure is that I’m tired. I can feel saliva forming in the corner of my mouth. I’ve got that vacant stare at the computer screen and my mind is drifting.

I could use a nap except I don’t take naps, though I wish I did.

We have it in reverse in this country. Little pre-school kids are required to take naps while adults go blasting through the day like we don’t need no stinkin’ break.

It should be the opposite. What I wouldn’t give for some kind of alarm to go off at work at 1:30 p.m. Then all us worker bees would head to the photography studio where there are no windows, and in a darkened room, lie down on our pallets while a supervisor sits in a rocking chair in the middle and sews or reads a book with a book light and shushes us for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, the little urchins at day care get a nice sugar fix about that time to carry them through the rest of the day, where they promptly collapse for the night at 7:30 p.m., and they and nap-strengthened mom and dad are much the better for it.

There are extreme benefits for taking a nap, or at least that’s what I’ve been told. I wouldn’t know.
According to the Sleep Foundation, a 20- to 30-minute nap helps short-term alertness, enhances performance, and reduces mistakes and accidents. It has a psychological benefit too – a reward to yourself for a little mini-vacation.

A NASA study showed a 40-minute nap improved alertness in military pilots by 35 percent. Even a 10-minute mini-catnap can better cognitive performance.

Napping gets a bit of a stigma, that it’s for the lazy or those with no ambition. That’s not entirely true as I’m lazy and have no ambition and I don’t take naps. Plus there’s been some famous nappers who were big-time achievers in history.

Napolean took naps in battle. Winston Churchill enjoyed two hours of solid napping per day without clothes, though he was likely sleeping one off. John Kennedy took a one- to two-hour nap daily with drapes drawn. History has shown, however, that “nap” probably included a female visitor from time to time.

Lyndon Johnson, Kennedy’s successor, would change into pajamas for a 30-minute nap at 3:30 p.m. Thomas Edison, it was said, “didn’t sleep very much, but napped a lot.” Eventually, he had to turn out the light bulb he invented to do so.

My dad, a farmer, took at least a 20-minute nap every day. He’d come home for lunch, and then lie down in his overalls on the floor of the living room for at least 20 minutes.

No pillow, nothing soft under him. It looked uncomfortable, but he was as still as a stone. If someone walked into our living room, they’d see these legs protruding from behind the couch and scream of foul play.

As a kid, when I was driving a tractor, I was as quiet as a church mouse during his naps, praying he would go into a deep REM sleep and not wake up until 5:30 p.m. and save me an afternoon of hot tractor torture. But without fail, he’d be up in 20 minutes or so and charge headlong into work until sunset.

I can’t do that. I’m not a napper unless it was forced upon me. It may have stemmed from more than 20 years ago. It was a Sunday afternoon, and I fell asleep on the couch.

When I woke up, there was my youngest son, Chad, about 3, and another little friend just standing there silently staring at me like I was some kind of zoo creature. What was I doing – snoring, picking my nose, drooling? It was unnerving.

“You kids go play,” I said, wiping my mouth and feeling of my nostrils.

On those rare times when I fall asleep for even 15 minutes, I wake up in a blind panic. It takes a few seconds to get oriented – what day is it? What did I miss? Where should I be? I don’t know if it’s a Type A personality thing or not.

People talk about Sunday naps like it’s yet another glorious religious experience of the day and I know not what they talk about. My wife can nod off in mid-conversation like I’ve been dropped in a cell phone call. That’s not all bad, mind you, but it does speak to how easily some can fall asleep.

I can’t – at least not on my own. Now maybe if it were required, I could realize one of the real benefits of a power nap – staying up until 10 p.m.

by Jon Mark Beilue

Jon Mark Beilue is an award-winning columnist for AGN Media. He can be reached at jon.beilue@amarillo.com or (806) 345-3318.
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