In Praise of Naps
I remember reading this cool story about Edison. He didn’t have a firm separation between day and night and kept a bed in his office. When he was tired, in the middle of the day, he had a 15 or 20 minute nap, and then woke up, full of bounce. If he was wide awake in the night, he worked. As a result, he was usually fresh, and alert.
I am a great believer in that—and find it hard to believe that anything is worth running ragged and tired.
And so, I am also a great believer in—and practitioner of!!—naps. Generally one a day, for 13-20 minutes, but on a tired day, I might have 2 or 3 short 15-20 minute naps, just to regain bounce and read or write or think or live at full speed.
My favourite description of a nap is from Iris Murdoch’s “The Good Apprentice”—“two days for the price of one.” That’s what a long nap, 30-60 minutes gives me. The morning’s turmoils, tensions, happenings and work now seem far away; it’s like starting a new day afresh!!
It’s exactly what I feel on resuming my day after an hour of prayer. Yesterday’s hurly-burly, this morning’s frustrations now seem far-away, past history. He has made all things new!
* * *
Napping may seem slothful to the Western mind but in the East, it’s been part of the way of life for millennia, probably. The sun streams in at 5 o’clock; the noise of life begins. And then, not surprisingly, by mid-afternoon, sleepiness overwhelms you, and a nap restores you for the rest of your day.
My father, a Chartered Accountant, was the Controller of Accounts at Tata Steel, and walked home every day for lunch, and laid down, flat on his back, his hankerchief over his eyes, and slept soundly for about half an hour. At two, he walked back for his second shift. He and my mother quite unnecessarily woke at 5 a.m. to read their newspapers, with bowls of mangoes beside them, so I guess they adapted to this biphasic sleep.
* * *
Many contemporary solutions to modern life are counter-intuitive. For instance, people often recommend that you go out for a run or garden when you are depressed. And when I do do that, I feel immeasurably better. However, the trick is getting myself to do it.
I am afraid what I do when I feel depressed is have a nap (with a timer) resting with God, telling him the Go has leaked out of me, but I do want to do this and this and that and please would He restore me. It is a quiet rest with God—I guess it’s prayer, because I certainly feel God’s closeness and enveloping—and I am restored after it, and feel happier and motivated again. Though to call it prayer feels a bit of a con. I lie down guiltily– knowing I am doing the very thing one is not supposed to when depressed or out of motivation: take to bed. And I guess it’s God’s mercy that I regain my bounce and motivation.
I am afraid I no longer resonate with the things I read about waking early, Bruce Wilkinson saying that you will stagnate and not reach spiritual heights unless you wake at 5 (in The Secret of the Vine) or Jeff Goins’ advocacy of early rising to write.
These are the verse which speak to me on the subject, from Psalm 127
Unless the Lord builds the house,
In vain do the builders labour
In vain is your earlier rising,
Your going later to bed
For he gives to his beloved sleep.
* * *
Only a fraction of writers who write are widely read by their generation. And only a fraction of those writers will be read by successive generations.
And yet we have a mandate: To bear fruit which will last.
And how are we to do that?
It’s counter-intuitive and paradoxical. By hanging out with Jesus, resting in Jesus, remaining in Jesus, learning from Jesus, talking to Jesus, listening to Jesus, being one with him. Abiding, dwelling in him.
And my time of this rest and unity, beyond words, is often when I am dozing off on a brief 15 minute nap I’m taking because I am too groggy, too mentally tired, or simply too sad and limp and listless to do anything else.
And in the still waters of the nap, he makes me down to rest. He restores my soul. Again.
I love Him!