I’ve just put the answering machine on, cancelled my afternoon meetings, locked my door and pulled the shades. And do you know why? No, it’s not another bad haircut. It’s so I can take a nap. There, I’ve said it, and I feel better already.
My name’s Alan, I’m a napper, and I’m not embarrassed to admit it. Okay, maybe a little. Only seniors and small children are allowed to nap and tell in our can-do culture, but whoever said “you snooze, you lose” should be given a blankey and told to go lay down.
According to a non-profit research firm called SNORE (Start Napping Or Remain Exhausted), approximately 56 per cent of all adults between the ages of 21 and 59 nap at least twice a week. Those who nap regularly report the following benefits:
Fewer Colds and Viruses
Napping helps keep your immune system strong so you can fight off germs and viruses present in your everyday environment. Take for instance, that wheezing, gagging guy who touched the doorknob right before you. Without a nap: you’re a goner on a slow donkey ride to sick-bed city. With a nap: life is good, and gagging guy gags alone.
Or how about that woman in front of you in the checkout line at the market? The one that sneezed violently three times in rapid succession in your direction while you stood there defenselessly clutching your boneless chicken breast and low-fat Fudgsicles. Again, without a nap, you’re on the express line to upper respiratory misery. With a nap, Sneezy, Dopey, Grumpy, Sleepy, Happy and Doc could all cough in your face and you’d go home healthy.
Fewer Injuries At Home
Let’s face it, napping is one of the safest activities you can do around your home. Sure, there’s the chance you’ll wake up groggy to the sound of a ringing phone and - lurching into action - stub your toe on the edge of a doorframe or table and then finish with a flourish by cracking your head against a stereo speaker on the way down. But if you can relate to that scenario, I have to ask: Were you really napping or were you sleeping off the effects of some serious nipping? (Studies show that napping and excessive nipping have a similar horizontal result, but nippers are more prone to injury when vertical.)
More Mental Sharpness
In an age where North Americans average less sleep at night (6.7 hours compared to 7.5 hours 15 years ago), catching some extra z’s during the day is more important than ever for efficient brain function. Those who do make time to “drop out and drop off” tend to resurface with enhanced mental skills. Just to offer a small example, I use to cover up my inability to remember people’s names by calling them “Champ” or “Kiddo.” With the mental boost I’ve gained through napping, I now call people real names like “Regina,” “Garrett,” and “Jamie.” My accuracy rate is a respectable 71 per cent.
Thanks to napping, I’ve also improved my ability while showering to recall which body parts I’ve washed and which I haven’t gotten to yet. And those days when I use to walk from the living room to the kitchen with a sense of urgency only to stare blankly at the appliances before withdrawing in bewilderment are largely a thing of the past.
A Youthful Appearance
Forget Botox injections, hair replacement, eyelid surgery or shopping at The Gap. To look young beyond your years, nothing gives you that fresh-faced glow and boundless energy like regularly scheduled daytime snoozes.
Granted, the period immediately after a nap can leave you looking a little rough around the edges - especially if you’ve spent an hour or two in one position and awake with creases on your face that resemble a street map of downtown Vancouver. But these markings are only temporary and are swiftly replaced by a youth that defies the truth. Indeed, at the age of 54, I’m often mistaken for a man of 40 - even younger when I remember to hold in my stomach and stop talking about my boyhood crush on Barbara Eden.
I didn’t wake up one morning and decide to make a big issue about napping and the stigma it still unfairly holds for those of us who fall into that awkward age group between infancy and old fart. But if others are covering up their napping habit as I have for fear of public ridicule, it’s high time someone stood up, stretched, fixed his hair, and set the record straight about this misunderstood act.
I’ll get right on it - after my nap.
OCTOBER 2011 SENIOR LIVING MAGAZINE VANCOUVER ISLAND