In my exhaustive study, The History of Sleep, I devoted an entire chapter to the development of the nap. I described how the nap was first tested on kids and cats before being approved for adults. When I was a kid, though, I had so much energy, I could barely sleep at night, let alone doze during daylight. I mistakenly thought sleep was a waste of time. Now as an adult, naps are my favorite pastime.
My wife introduced me to the Sunday nap when we were dating. The routine was to go to church in the morning, eat an enormous meal at noon and spend the rest of the afternoon sleeping it off — before going back to church in the evening. The first Sunday this happened, I wondered why everyone had gone back to bed, but I soon learned to embrace the Sunday nap.
Then my wife demonstrated the after-work nap. This also seemed like a good idea. When I lost my full-time job, I feared that I no longer qualified for the after-work nap. But what if I accomplish something monumental, like sweeping out the garage, tightening a doorknob, or mailing a letter? After such exertions, I can hear the couch calling.
Next, I took up the after-dinner nap. It’s much easier to sleep when you’re full. I know it sounds like I spend most of my day unconscious, but I’m napping for a very serious cause. A recent article in the Washington Post bore the alarming headline: “Americans don’t sleep enough, and it’s costing us $411 billion.”
Sleep deprivation is driving us further into debt. Most of these costs are due to a lack of productivity on the part of sleepy workers. We miss over a million workdays a year, due to disease, depression and fatigue that result from lack of sleep. Ten percent of us even die due to these ailments, which really cuts down on our productivity.
So if you’re truly patriotic, try grabbing some more time in the sack. If we could just get 6-7 hours of shuteye a day, we could save the country $226 billion. But financial loss aside, we’d be less crabby, have more energy, and our brains would work more efficiently.
Naps reboot the brain. They keep us from getting burned out. They relieve stress and lower our chance of having a heart attack. However, even though 96 percent of us feel drowsy during the day, naps are not for everyone. For insomniacs, naps could be downright harmful. Others don’t like the temporary grogginess of waking up from a nap.
However, I’m going to follow the example of countless successful people and continue to take naps. I’ve been experimenting with the after-lunch nap but lapsing into a full food coma might be extreme. We want to rest our brains, not flat-line all brain activity. Still, I will continue to explore the limits of sleep and take heart from the all-time champion: Rip Van Winkle.
Now there was a lazy guy. Even when he was awake, Rip avoided hard work. His house was falling apart and his wife nagged him to fix it. But the people in the community loved Van Winkle for the stories he told. He certainly had a good one, after he passed out from alcohol and woke up with a long beard.
Best of all, Rip fell asleep during the reign of crazy King George III and woke up during the administration of the great George Washington. Doesn’t that sound ideal? Set the alarm for 2020!
John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.