Monday, March 3, 2014

I win at napping.

If there's one thing I learned through all the stress, recovery, insanity of the last couple of years, it's how to power nap.


Firstly, there's an ideal time for it—not one indicated by a clock, but there's a subtle cue you need to notice, and it starts in your brain.

No, I'm not full of shit (at this moment at least, heh). I know with myself there's a fine line between needing to close my eyes and being successful at a power nap, and wanting to close my eyes and not actually requiring the nap, and thus left staring at the ceiling willing myself to relax.

In the worst case scenarios, the ones where I desperately needed a nap (think recovery from surgery), I'd feel my entire brain wanting to shut down.

Zero function. Inability to put a sentence together. Black out zone.

And the nap itself—though only 20-30 minutes in length—would be as deep and restful as if I'd passed out for hours.

There's an art to shutting your brain. When I know I'm in that will-sleep napping zone, I find my mind might wander for a minute or two (five, max), then poof—I'm gone. A half hour later and I'm waking, sometimes surprised to see I'm in the recliner and not my bed.

Nowadays I'm doing pretty well, I don't need to nap everyday, and definitely not multiple times a day (like post-surgery). There's the odd day where I'll get up really early, witness my own moment of fatigue and recognize that I should try to close my eyes later that day, but I don't require the nap itself to continue until bedtime.

I'll be far more functional, patient, and productive if I get said nap in, but it's not a deal breaker (unlike when I was recovering from surgery, when I'd nap anywhere—including the van, in a parking lot or on the side of the highway, yes, even in cold February and March temps. There was no escaping the post-surgical nap. It needed to happen and took over my brain).

Now that surgery has trained me, though, I'm a star napper. I can close my eyes and be asleep within five minutes, and wake anywhere between 15 and 30 minutes later.

It's a talent, what can I say? My mom was a napper, too.

Mr Lannis is jealous. He'll lay on the living room carpet with an arm slung over his eyes "resting", and he never actually passes out. He's tired a lot, and isn't a good sleeper on his best day night.

So I can see why it'd be jealousy-inducing.

But there's a few setups that make my brief drift off to dreamland easier.

1. Comfortable spot. I'm used to the living room recliner. If I go to my bed, I'll probably sleep longer than my 30 minutes, and I'm not down with that.

2. Warmth. I have a rice bag I nuke in the microwave and lay it over my middle. That plus a quilt. I get all warm, cosy, and subsequently sleepy pretty quick.

3. Time. I need to know I have the time for a nap, without worrying I'll oversleep. If this means closing my eyes at 2:30pm when I know I need to get ready to leave to get kids from school at 3pm, I'll set the oven timer to ensure I wake in time. My brain then knows it needn't stress about waking up on time, and I'm more able to quiet the babble of anxiety in my brain and relax.

4. Background noise. Complete lack of, or a regular, even sound. I sleep with white noise at night because I startle easy when there's sound out of nowhere. (Frost quakes this winter really got our hearts pumping in the middle of the night, lemme tell you.) When construction was ever-present, I'd turn the radio on low so it blended in while I closed my eyes in the living room. Now if I'm the only one home I use nothing, but if the kids are running around, I'll let them put on the TV—yes, in the same room I'm in—and that'll be enough to cover any noise they make while I get my 20 minutes of shuteye.

5. Practice. Like anything, napping successfully is a skill. Sounds like bullshit, but sleeping routines are not just for babies.

If all else fails, just laying there for 10-15 minutes is very restful, and can help me switch from unproductive to productive. Sometimes that's what it takes... recognizing that my low-energy day will be hyper-charged if I take a few minutes to shut down, and give myself permission to do it.

It sounds indulgent, but I know myself well enough to know that I'll maximize my day if I take care of my brain. If I've managed to sidetrack a migraine aura, a nap will reset any leftover fuzz clouding my mind.

Granted, even without that, being winter with Seasonal Affective Disorder in full swing, a teeny nap is necessary for mental function on almost a daily basis. It's just the way it is.

And I am all for kicking SAD's ass this year.

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