The Value of a Nap

I hate sleep.

Okay, maybe “hate” is too strong a word. But I don’t really like to sleep, and every time I hear someone tell me how much they love to sleep, I just can’t relate.

Sleep feels like wasted time, to me; a huge chunk of the all-too-brief 24-hour day that I’d rather spend doing something else. Almost anything else, really. I’ve spent most of my life wishing I truly could live by the motto, “Sleep when you’re dead.” I just feel like I have better things to do. I could be creating something. I could be hanging out with my favorite people. I could be cleaning. I could be getting work done. I could be learning something new. I could be exploring. Heck, I could even just be catching up on my shows or my reading.

I know my body needs to sleep, but I still can’t shake that feeling that time sleeping is time that could be better spent.

There’s also the mental health factor. I associate sleep with depression, and suicidal ideation. Sleep is an escape from a painful reality, and it’s easy to fall into a seemingly endless sleep when that reality feels like too much to handle. It’s been said and resaid, by everyone from Thomas Sackville to Nas, that sleep is the cousin of death. It’s a concept that rings true to me; when I truly want to sleep, all too often it comes from the same dark place that makes me want to step out into traffic, or jump off high places. It’s the desire for relief without end, a craving for a permanent sense of peace.

Waking up is rarely a pleasant experience, either. I’m not a morning person by any means, no matter what time of day becomes my morning in my ever-shifting schedule. I rarely wake feeling refreshed, and it often takes a few hours before I feel like a human being capable of fully and happily engaging with the world. This has been true most of my life, and it is true whether I’m waking to an alarm or sleeping as long as I like. It is true whether my schedule changes from day to day or remains consistent for months, or years.

So in the end, sleep is a necessity which holds little reward. I enjoy dreaming, but my imagination is typically as vivid, abstract, and bizarre when I’m awake as it is when I’m asleep. And I sometimes think that I spend too much of my time dreaming, in every sense of the word.

But in spite of all that, there are exceptions to my distaste for sleeping. Sleep at the end of a long, exhausting, but also absolutely thrilling and invigorating day, for instance, can feel incredible. Or sleep cuddled up to someone I love and trust, with whom I need no words to feel comfortable or convoluted barriers to protect my heart. And, of course, anyone who has dozed off with a sleeping baby on their chest knows that it is one of the most beautifully pure experiences one can have in this life.

Of course, that last one is usually a brief experience, rather than a full night’s sleep. Which brings me to the kind of sleep I can truly appreciate, and prefer: the nap.

My aversion to sleep, as it turns out, doesn’t usually apply to naps. A nap is a beautiful thing. According to the experts, a nap is even a healthy thing. According to listicles ranging from the dubious to the possibly trustworthy, indulging in naps may even make one a more successful person.

I can’t really speak to any of that. All I know is that I don’t associate naps with wasted time, nor with death. As much as I’m driven by the need to do more than is humanly possible in 24 hours, I don’t think slowing down and appreciating the beautiful things in life is a waste. And naps are strangely beautiful. Rather than feeling reminiscent of death, they feel like a celebration of life. The feeling I get as I drift off into a nap is one of pleasure and contentment. The feeling I get coming out of a nap is one of refreshment and newfound appreciation for being alive.

Maybe it’s the shorter frame of time that elapses during unconsciousness that makes me appreciate naps more than a full night’s sleep. Maybe it’s that it feels like more of a choice, and less an irresistible physical need forcing itself on my unwilling consciousness. Maybe it’s just that my anxiety tends to fire up when I try to make myself go to sleep for the night, whereas most of my naps occur when my anxiety is silent. And even those naps that occur as the result exhausting myself with panic end with me feeling relaxed and rested, with remarkably little time lost.

There are a million possible reasons that I feel differently about a good, short nap than I do about proper sleep. I don’t know which are the more pertinent explanations. Maybe all of them are equally to blame. But without naps, I’d have a much more dysfunctional relationship with sleep than I already have now. And I’d probably die of the strain I put on my body all the sooner as a result.

I can’t understate the importance of naps in my life. They have been part of the best of times, and helped me get through the worst of times. They have helped me pass the time when it moved too slowly, and helped me use it more wisely when there wasn’t enough.

Naps are life-giving. Naps can reaffirm our sense of hope, give us perspective, and remind us that taking a break is just as important as anything else in life. A nap can mean the difference between whether life is hell, or whether you can find a little slice of heaven on Earth.

Never underestimate the value of a good nap.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: