To nap or not to nap … should never be a question.
The answer is “nap”. Always.
Well, except if you ask the eight to 13-year-old set who are both appalled and offended by the suggestion of a nap. I was also appalled and offended by the many times my eight thru 15-year-olds brushed off a nap. Sure, it wasn’t always that they needed one, but dear God, I did. (Note to parents, naps become hip again in the late teens. #blessed.)
I still do need a nap. Always. I love a good nap. I love an average nap. I have mastered all of the naps.
While I do feel a sense of parental pride when either of my baby adult children “head up for a quick nap”, I am less joyous when my husband suggests he join me in my afternoon slumber. It’s not that I don’t enjoy his cuddly presence, it’s that he doesn’t do it right. The nap. He does do the cuddle right.
Why, at 50-something, am I a lover of naps? I am a fairly easy person to manage when I reach Stage Cranky. Snack, nap, or both. I am very female in my ability to morph into a demon quite quickly when my blood sugar is low. I am also very female in that it’s a short leap from firing-on-all-four-cylinders to must-lie-down-now. I have become more aware of these shape-shifts as I have aged, and one result is my mastery of the nap.
Back when I lived solo in my Barbie Townhouse, my bed was for “real” sleep and the couch was for “nap” sleep. I could essentially cue my body on sleep-expectations based upon which surface I closed my eyes.
The summary of my success is training my brain to know the difference between regular sleep and the nap. My husband has no regard for the distinction. He comes in balls-out for naps. Like actually, sometimes. I do believe he now mostly understands that “heading up for a quick nap” is not a euphemism.
Back when I lived solo in my Barbie Townhouse, my bed was for “real” sleep and the couch was for “nap” sleep. I could essentially cue my body on sleep-expectations based upon which surface I closed my eyes. When I acquired my current wacky insta-family, couch naps were quickly abandoned as I would often sense one of my beloved stepchildren staring at me, waiting to pounce on a fluttering eyelid. It never failed. As soon as I started to drift off on the couch, I’d hear the sorrowed cries of, “have you seen…”, “what’s for dinner…” or “when are we …” . It seems that a mother drifting off is the catalyst for panic, as if she will never return to her post as Chaos Coordinator.
As I had to relocate my siestas, I also had to cue my body in different ways to maintain my sleep-nap distinction:
- Background Noise: Lemongrass for sleep, stories for a nap.
- I’ve listened to Ambient Land by Lemongrass on repeat for a decade now, all night, while sleeping. I give my husband full credit. We discovered this track’s ability to put me into near instant dream state on our honeymoon when, while explaining to him that I could not sleep with music playing, I fell soundly asleep before I had finished my complaint.
- For napping, I prefer playing The Young and the Restless. A perfect nap means falling asleep to the opening credits and waking up as the ending credits kick-off. In between? 48 minutes of dreamy bliss.
- Attire: Pajamas for sleep, boxers for naps.
- Without going into the details, I do like a clothing-optional bedtime. But I have learned that my husband’s hands sleepwalk, so full attire it is.
- For naps, as I am typically alone, I wear less.
- Lighting: Curtains closed for sleep, open for naps.
- Really no need to get deep here, but if I black out the daylight at 2 pm, I have a hard time waking up..
- Duration: As long as humanly possible for sleep, 40 minutes, max, for a nap.
- Anything longer on the nap equals grogginess for the rest of the day.
Here’s where my husband and I diverge, as I was reminded again last week when I casually yelled “Going to take a nap!” and heard “Oh! Maybe I’ll join you!” in response.
What? Join me? What? Could I just say, “No thanks! You don’t nap right”? Yeah, that does seem catty. What? Shit.
Nap mode: Deactivated.
My husband strolls into naptime with his regular pajamas on.
He closes the curtains and seals them as if the room will go bad if touched by the afternoon light.
He crawls into bed and takes his pillows (okay, yes, they are his, but I do like using his pillows for naptime, which is he learning as he reads this), leaving me with only my two pillows.
He puts on Lemongrass.
He asks things like “Are you going to turn that off?” in reference to the audio of my stories, while I stare at him, blinking and wondering what the shite is happening.
Typically, before I can answer, he is sound asleep.
What? This man does not even set an alarm to wake him gently in 38 minutes with a built-in seven-minute snooze. Is he planning to stay asleep until bedtime?
These are difficult times for me.
These are exhausting times for me.
My only option is to wait until he finishes his nap – and who knows when that will be, Mr. Wake-Winging-It – and then try again, with my trusted Pavlovian program in place. This is not relaxing. I think this may even count as infringement of my rights.
I mean, yes, the bed is a shared space, like the beds of all happily married people. And, yes, if he is tired, I would never suggest he not take a nap, as I know how that missed snoozurtunity can mean a draggy afternoon. I don’t even mind him being with me when I nap. It is actually cozy and comforting.
Or at least it could be.
If he would just nap correctly.
Jyl Barlow is an American writer. Her debut ‘What to Expect When You Weren’t Expecting’, a memoir about her path as a (step)mom, was released in February 2023 and is available from Amazon. Jyl lives in Virginia, USA with her husband and two (step)children. Get to know her at jylbarlow.com and follow her stories on whichwaysup.blog.