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Tuesday, June 4, 2013

How to Take a Nap

People ask me all the time, "What's the secret of napping?  How do you do it so well?"  The way they usually phrase it is more along the lines of, "What, are you napping again?" or just "Get up."  The people who say these things are usually my wife Nancy.

Napping successfully is not something you can do without practice.  Oh sure, it looks easy, but don't be fooled.  In the hands of a master, such as myself, napping appears as easy as falling off a log.  (Step 1: Get on log.  Step 2: Fall off.)  But really, napping takes years of training and careful forethought.

One of the key tricks to a successful nap is selecting the proper time of day.  This is an area where many would-be nappers go wrong, and end up in needless frustration and turmoil.  If you try napping too early, it's not really napping, but sleeping in.  Sleeping in has its advocates, but frankly, I've never been one of them.  Sleeping in is just extending something you should already be done with.  If you haven't had sufficient sleep after eight hours, you just weren't trying hard enough.  Getting an extra hour in bed is like going to a restaurant and asking for additional parsley.  The glory of a nap is that it's not an extension of a good night's sleep, but a whole separate serving.

If taking a nap too early is less than satisfactory, taking one too late can be dreadful.  At best, you may find yourself going to bed early, which isn't bad, but again, like sleeping in, deprives you of the full-blown glory of the true nap.  At worst, you may wake up at 6:30 or 7:00 feeling woogy and out of sorts, enduring a few hours before having to go to bed all over again.

The ideal nap time is between 11:00 AM and 3:00 PM, and the perfect length of a nap is precisely two hours.  Any less and you'll feel short-changed, but you mustn't overdo it either.  It's like taking a bath; you should stay in until your fingertips are pleasantly wrinkled, no longer.  Once you start getting seriously water-logged, you aren't taking a bath; it's taking you.  Being sleep-logged is just as unpleasant, only you don't have the wrinkly fingertips to show for it.

Another mistake would-be nappers make is not getting dressed.  Taking a nap in your pajamas or boxer shorts or leather corset or whatever you sleep in fails to differentiate the nap from ordinary bedtime.  Likewise, a really superb nap should not be done in bed.  You can definitely take a nap in bed, and I have often done so myself, but it loses some of its savor.  If you cook everything in the skillet you use for scrambling eggs, sooner or later everything tastes like scrambled eggs.

The perfect place for a nap is the couch.  Some say a hammock is also nice, but this is mere sentimental claptrap.  Nobody likes sleeping in a hammock really; it just seems picturesque.  Napping isn't a spectator sport; you should be concerned with functionality not style.

So let's do a quick run-through.

It's about 12:45 and you've just had a nice lunch of left-over baked chicken which you chopped up into chicken salad.  You've had a pretty full day already, what with gardening and walking the dog, and you turn on the tv.  Valley of Gwangi is on, and you recall it has perhaps the greatest cowboy-lassoing-a-triceratops scene ever filmed.  You lie on the couch to watch this masterpiece, first kicking off your shoes.  (It is imperative by the way, that you not be wearing socks.  If you have on socks, remove them before going any further.)

Say to yourself, "I think I'll close my eyes a little."  The wording here is very important.  You must not announce, even to yourself, you intend to take a nap.  It's the same principle with Girl Scout cookies, always tell yourself, "I think I'll just have a couple."  Never say, "I think I'll just sit here and eat the whole box."

Two hours later, open your eyes.  Smack your lips and get up.

There you have it.  If you follow these instructions carefully, you have years of successful napping ahead of you and you'll be the envy of your friends and neighbors who unwisely fritter away their afternoons accomplishing stuff.

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