The Nap Option! (plus, a lexicography of napping)

Last Thursday, I had a terrible night of sleep. I woke up at 5 AM and started drinking coffee in order to be prepared for a morning commitment. Then, I sat down and tried to work until my readings class was scheduled to begin at 2 PM. However, the day was in all ways miserable. My writing was silly and low-quality. I couldn’t concentrate enough to read. I tried to nap, but I was too caffeinated. All I could do was chat online with distant friends. Finally, I gave up and just went ahead and did all the things that I’d been too busy to do for the past few weeks: I paid my estimated taxes; I threw out some boxes; I bought a coffee machine; I wrote a blog post; I cleaned my shower (oh my god, my shower was unbelievably gross–the drain was clogged and there was all this sediment dried up on it). But, while they were necessary, these actions brought me no pleasure.

And then, during my readings class, I was just so dead. I did my best, but my world was in ruins. I was too tired to feel positive emotions.

And I sat there thinking, “Oh my god, I’ve made such a horrible mess of my life. How could I have gotten into this state? This day is completely wasted. And what’s more, I’m so overcaffeinated that I know that tonight I’m going to have an even worse night of sleep.”

And I vowed to myself that I would never get into that state again. I don’t think that being tired or otherwise exhausted is good for a person’s writing. But even if it is, I’d rather have a happy day than a good writing day.

Amongst other decisions that came out of that day, I’ve decided to reorder my priorities. From now on, my first priority in life is getting enough sleep. My second priority is the rest of that less important bodily stuff. And then will come writing, reading, school, teaching, etc.

My problem has, for years, been a recurrent night-time insomnia. But, for some weird reason, I am always perfectly able to fall asleep during the midafternoon. I’ve always resisted embracing the siesta, because it seemed too wild and untameable. But now I’ve finally succumbed.

I am instituting The Nap Option.

On every day, my current schedule has a free space between noon and 2 PM. Until now, I’ve been using that space for writing and/or reading. But from now on, I am barring myself from writing in that period. Even if I am perfectly awake and alert, no writing can occur during the Nap Option time period. With this simple rule, I am removing the Writing/Napping dichotomy. Never again shall I be forced to choose between writing and napping. From now on, I can nap guilt-free!

Today, I utilized the nap option for the first time. It was glorious.

And, as I drifted off to sleep, I began to formulate a lexicography of napping:

  • nappetizer – A dense pre-nap meal, usually consisting of starchy, glutinous foods that facilitate drowsiness.
  • nappetite – The ravenous hunger that assails one upon the completion of a successful and prolonged nap.
  • naptitude – One’s ability to nap: scientists have long debated whether a person’s naptitude is primarily a result of genetics or whether it is a trait that can be acquired through study and training.
  • napkindred – A person who shares your napping schedule.
  • napnea – Repeatedly awakening from a nap, often in the grip of some terrifying nightmare.
  • napprentice – One who is just embarking on his or her first few attempts at daytime napping.
  • napsomnia  – When one settles down for a nap, but sleep is not forthcoming.
  • napsent – see napsomnia.
  • naperture – the window of time during which one is physiologically able to nap. For instance, my own naperture is between 11 AM and 5 PM.


Comments (



  1. Anonymous

    If you snore and are sleepy in the afternoon, chances are you have obstructive sleep apnea. Have you ever been tested for it? Read the sleep apnea chapter in THE PROMISE OF SLEEP by William Dement and Chris Vaughan. If you have it (I do and have used a CPAP machine for 8 years), the simple treatment is the difference between feeling 17 and 70. I am never tired in the afternoon anymore. Before CPAP, I needed a two-hour daily nap and it wasn’t enough.

    1. R. H. Kanakia

      Hmm, it’s a possibility. I’ll think about it.

  2. D. Steinbock

    Even if you do occasionally experience napsomnia, you’ll find that just the act of lying down, still, with eyes closed, is enormously rejuvenating. Also, look up some of the conventional knowledge about good nap durations, given the body’s natural sleep cycles. My understanding is that 20 minutes or 90 minutes are good. Durations in between are possibly *not* good, because you wake in the middle of a sleep cycle.

    Regarding your larger goal of getting enough sleep… My key self-discovery to more restful sleep in the last couple years has been a sensitivity to my sleep cycles. When I wake at the top of a sleep cycle, I’m *way* more alert than otherwise. Alarm clocks are the devil because chances are they wake you at non-optimal points in your cycle and you wake super groggy. Snooze button is even worse. Now I only sleep in multiples of 90 minutes (the typical sleep cycle length). It’s eerily accurate. I set my alarm accordingly, adding on ~10 minutes to give me time to fall asleep. Most days I wake up naturally a minute or two before the alarm goes off. If I have a safe buffer in the morning, I won’t even set an alarm and it still works. Counter-intuitively, I’m more alert after 6 hours of sleep than 7 or 8. Of course 7.5 is even better. These days, I wake gently at the top of every sleep cycle throughout the night, recall my dreams more completely as a result, and rarely need an alarm.

    Given your love of self-analytics, you might also consider using one of the smartphone apps or devices out there that analyze your nightly (and naply) sleep cycles. They can ‘score’ each night’s sleep for how restful it was (based on measuring how much you toss and turn), creating motivation to improve it. I just got my first smartphone (Android) and am trying out ElectricSheep (simple, easy) and LucidDreamingApp (complicated, feature-rich) for this purpose.

    1. R. H. Kanakia

      I’ve thought of buying those thingamabobs that you can tie to your wrist which measures how much time you actually spend asleep (the Nike FitBit, I think). But maybe I’ll try out these sleep apps.

      I’ve had a few similar sleep-related realizations. I realized about a year ago that even if I wake up groggy or tired, it’s useless to try to go back to sleep. The more time I spend in bed (or snoozing), the more worse I feel once I get out. Thus I’ve been practicing trying to get out of bed in a prompt fashion. I think that maybe there’s something to what you’re saying about sleep cycles, because I often wake up .5-1.0 hours before my alarm goes off (and sometimes I wake up a few minutes before my alarm goes off). I’ll try to see whether getting out bed right after waking up gives me better results.

  3. Widdershins

    Naps are so necessary!

    Think about weaning yourself off caffeine as well. Find yourself a source of quality water decaffeinated coffee beans, grind only enough for a couple of cups at a time.

    Make a ritual of the whole process. ie don’t guzzle it down in front of the computer screen or while you’re doing any work.

    Take a cup out onto the front porch (someplace that isn’t connected to ‘work’) and watch the world go by for a few precious moments.

    Repeat as often as you need.

    it might not feel like it when you start but the time investment is so worth it as you see your productivity climb in quantity and quality.

    1. R. H. Kanakia

      Yes, I’m drinking less caffeine as well. Hopefully this sleeping more/better thing will pan out. So far I’ve just been sleeping _all the time_. But I think that eventually I’ll recover my sleep debt and go back to normal.

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