If this past week has taught me anything, it is that we all need to find more time in our day to take a nap. On Monday we woke up to one of the most horrific mass shootings in American history. On Tuesday we saw the guy some call the president of the United States visit the hurricane-ravaged American territory Puerto Rico for nothing more than a photo op and to practice his jumper with rolls of paper towels. On Wednesday, Cam Newton, a former NFL MVP, laughed at a reporter because he thought it was funny to hear a “female” talk about wide receiver routes. And by Thursday, we found out that said reporter used to be one of those white women who like to use the word “nigga.”
If you were extra woke, you probably even heard about retired NBA basketball player Kenyon Martin accusing Jeremy Lin of wanting to be black for getting dreadlocks and then Lin executing what is the equivalent of an in-game dunk by telling Martin he appreciates locs the way Martin appreciates Chinese tattoos.
Add up all this news, and you know what you get? Enough knowledge to do well on a round of Wait Wait ... Don’t Tell Me! and be the most woke person at a dinner party. But wouldn’t it be better if you were the most awake person at a dinner party?
At some point in our adult lives, the most common response we get to the “How are you?” question is some variation of “Tired.” And the ironic thing is, people say it like it’s a badge of honor. Folks these days are too proud to be tired and too ashamed to be rested, and it makes no damn sense.
I will admit: When I was younger, I hated naps. I was one of those people raised on hip-hop and thus lived by the motto “Sleep is the cousin of death.” But as I got older, it became clear to me that I wasn’t a rapper; I am my mother’s son, and I needed to take heed to the advice she used to give me growing up.
Back when I was a kid getting all riled up over something like my Nintendo cartridges not working, she would say, “Go take a nap.” Any ill feeling I complained to her about: “Go take a nap.” A little bit of heartbreak or sadness over some girl who didn’t like me back or some kid who made fun of me: “Go take a nap.” When I was a child, that didn’t sound like advice; it sounded like an order; but in hindsight, I realized what my mom was trying to do: She was trying to put me at ease. Sleep may be the cousin of death, but it’s the sibling of peace of mind.
So how do we do this nap thing? Fuck if I know, but I’ll at least try to be of some help here.
Not all of us have jobs that allow us to take naps, but most of us have a break here and there, and in that time, you need to be relentless with this nap thing. This starts with space. One of the reasons we don’t take naps is that we overthink what a nap looks like. We think it needs to be this comfortable, sound sleep, but the truth is that a real nap is always a little uncomfortable. You don’t need to lay down to close your eyes—all you need is to find a place where nobody can see you.
Now, space for a nap is one thing, but time? Time runs us way more than we run time, but we need to live by the words of our spiritual Auntie Maxine Waters and reclaim a little bit of time for ourselves by taking a nap. And when I say “a little bit,” I do mean a little bit. More naps is not the same as more sleep.
Naps are like sex: They don’t need to be long to be good. Got a 30-minute lunch break? Eat for 15 minutes, close your eyes for the other 15. Got a 15-minute break? Give yourself five to 10 minutes to close your eyes. Whatever the length of time is, just remember: Most people do not care where you are at or what you are doing for a small amount of time, so why not use that to your advantage? Take a nap.
And if you need further convincing that naps are not only good for you but also not bad for you, allow me to be an example.
In 2011 I was a staff writer at the Huffington Post. One of the coolest things we had there was nap rooms. Yep, that’s right: We had actual rooms built for the sole purpose of taking naps. Arianna Huffington believed strongly in the idea that a quick nap can revive us as much as a cup of coffee or walk around the block.
As cool as it was to have these nap rooms, I called them trap rooms. I was a young journalist of color working on the Black Voices vertical. I would be damned if I represented myself as anything less than a hardworking reporter. Fuck a nap, I said to myself. I was there to work, and work I did.
But about six months into the job, I was blindsided by my editor, who said she was letting me go simply because I wasn’t a good fit. I worked hard. I showed up to work every day on time and I never missed deadlines. She simply didn’t think my work aligned with the vision she had for the site. That’s all water under the bridge now, but I still think about those nap rooms and how naive I was to think that if I got caught in one of them, I would be judged unfairly. As it turns out, it wasn’t a nap that got me fired—it was work.
This week has been a lot, but in 2017, what week hasn’t been? Every week there’s more news, more things for us to worry about, and it’s all so exhausting. We talk about things like unplugging and self-care, but what do those things mean? A nap, on the other hand, is absolute. It doesn’t have to be every day, it doesn’t have to be every week. You should just be taking more naps than you have been taking, which is probably zero.
It may not be the cure to all your problems, but nobody has ever woken up from a nap and regretted it. Naps also may not be cool. People will try to tell you that when you’re on your deathbed, you won’t look back and wish you’d taken more naps, but those people will also probably die before you, so don’t listen to them. Listen to yourself, and the next time you’re exhausted or weary with the world or work, find some space and find some time to take a nap.