Pretty sick of hearing from science exactly how long a nap should be. Are you coming over to nudge me out of this bed at exactly 4:47 before I cascade into a REM whirlpool, my friends? Because if not kindly do not come crowding around at me with this “twenty minute” business, as that is no good to me at all.
Look at this graph. I see this graph everywhere. I don’t know where it came from, I found it on “secrets of the fed dot com,” which I think is probably not its original source:
I’m sick three-quarters-and-a-half-to-death of these nap studies telling me how long I can sleep in the afternoon for. “Only sleep for six minutes after a half a cup of coffee between 2:22 and 2:38 for optimal nap results, any longer could result in Bad Vibes,” well guess what, science, the only nap results I am looking for is BEING ASLEEP, I am curled up on my mom’s most cat-hair-beribboned couch because it is SOFT and my brain is HURTING FROM CONSCIOUSNESS, not because I’m looking for Increased Memoralling Productiviting In The Workspace, my chums. I’ve never napped for shorter than two hours a day in my life, and I refuse to take a present participle of blame for that fact. “Don’t fall asleep after five, as this could decrease optimal results…” WHAT IF AFTER FIVE IS WHEN I GOT TIRED, NAP DOCTORS? WHAT IF “AFTER FIVE” IS THE SLEEPIEST I’M AT AND A NAP WOULD CURE THAT SLEEPINESS UP RIGHT QUICK?
James Maas, former chairman of the Department of Psychology at Cornell University who is widely credited with coining the term “power nap,” says people should choose between 20 and 90 minutes for a power nap, should set an alarm, only nap if they haven’t had adequate sleep (7.5 hours or more), sleep in a space heated at 65 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit, and rest laying down.
Okay, JAMES, I won’t sleep doing cartwheels in my Volcano Room or whatnot, but a lot of these circumstances are right outside of my wheelhousery of controllment, do you know what I mean? Here’s my issue, James my man:
“Oh, just lay down in a dark room, and somehow relax your entire brain and body in the middle of your average day, just do that somehow, and then once you’re calm and safe enough to actually fall asleep, just remember to only do that for thirty minutes.” I don’t know about you, Jimbles, but I don’t have a lot of control over what my body does once I go to sleep, I pretty much hand things off to the night shift and hope for the best, so I can say “okay, team, we’re just gonna do this for a thirty-hour, right?” but my team is just a bunch of rowdy kids who know they’re getting left with a substitute teacher who actually doesn’t even have the authority to tell Ms. Kane when she gets back what they’ve been up to so why are they even gonna listen to me? How long a nap is gonna get, nap-wise, is not up to me. I’m handing off the wheel once I fall a-napping, my dudes, and there’s not anything I or anyone else can do about my brain-state once it’s in the Vale of Shadows.
It takes one a while to fall asleep of a night, yes? You lie around a bit, thinking about things you’ve done or you might do, and your brain sort of circles around in your skull like a dog, checking things out before it curls up for the night, and sometimes your brain does a quick little self-scan of like hey we asleep yet team? and then you get a little extra bolt of alertness cos you have to tell your brain nah friend not just yet, gettin’ there though, check back in later, and that can sometimes add ten to fifteen minutes of the Transitioning To No More Awake Eyes process. Which is no big deal when you have a big chunk of the clock carved out for lying motionless in bed ahead of you, but when you only give yourself twenty to thirty minutes to sleep in the first place, my patriot of com, you’re setting yourself up for a nice batch of Not Ever Falling Asleep At All But Instead A Half Hour Of Lying Down At A Real Specific Temperature Wondering If I’m Asleep Yet Oh No Time’s Up.
It’s literally impossible for a human being to control or predict with any regularity how long a nap is going to last, and I refuse to brook argument on this matter, I will not be brooking any of that in future, so how about we just agree that when I’m asleep, I’m asleep, and let the chips pitch about collapsement-style where they may. Nap science, you’re always offering me directives and warnings but you’re not giving me solutions, so unless you’re coming over to my house with a nap belt that’s going to stop time while I’m de-conked, I highly suggest you go back to finding me a diet soda that’s not going to kill me, because my blood’s got too much of that bad kind of sugar in it already.
Mallory is an Editor of The Toast.