When I spent two months in Venezuela a few years ago, entire cities would shut down just after lunch for siesta. Shops weren’t open, nobody out on the streets. Everyone was in their houses napping or watching TV, it seemed. I am used to Taco Bell being open all the time, until 4am, and I couldn’t buy an empanada during siesta. Highly frustrating for an American who’s used to everything being available all the time.
But maybe they’re on to something with this siesta stuff. I’m sure many of you have had the same kind of experience as me: mornings are generally great times of creativity and productivity, but right after lunch there’s this wave that comes in, making me instantly stupid. Caffeine boosts me for a bit, but the afternoon is always more disappointing than the morning. But maybe a 10-20 minute power nap would have the effect of giving me two mornings! Oddly enough, more and more scientists are touting the wonderfully restorative and rejuvenating effects of a short nap in the early afternoon.
Looking through history, too, a lot of luminaries that were incredibly prolific and creative were nappers. Winston Churchill took a nap pretty much every day, Thomas Edison was a napper. Brahams napped at the piano, and da Vinci took frequent naps. Albert Einstein claimed naps helped make him more creative and praised the positive effect sleep had on his mind. Maybe these guys were on to something.
My friend Andy has just started a series of posts on time management and rest. He says a person at rest is a person who’s comfortable in their own skin, and ultimately a person who is more fruitful that one who who is hurried and random. It’s a well-known fact around here that he gets plenty of sleep and most of his best ideas come while he’s relaxing in the bath! And you thought he worked hard to get his stuff…
I think I may try this, which will be cool because now I can add Napping to my list of spiritual disciplines, which includes Coffee-drinking, Playing In The Dirt, Laughing At Ethan’s Fart Jokes, and Going To Bed At A Decent Hour.
So if you’re stuck on a problem at work, or your creativity has been sapped, put away the computer, turn off the cell phone, and definitely shut down that iPod, and take a nap. You might be surprised by what happens. In case you need further convincing, and for those who like bullet-points and numbered lists, I have prepared Four Reasons To Go Take A Nap:
- Because you don’t get enough sleep anyway. Statistics show (I’m pretty sure) more and more people are sleeping less in an effort to get more done. Stop it. Go to bed.
- Creativity thrives on rest and play. There really is something to "sleeping on it". I’ve had numerous "aha!" moments while taking a shower (the trick is trying to write the idea down while dripping water all over the paper). If you need a creative solution to a problem, oftentimes you just need to take a nap, or play a video game, or smell the flowers for awhile. You’ll get better results in the long run.
- Taking a siesta right after lunch kind of gives you two mornings. And mornings are way cooler for thinking up new things, brain-storming and the like, at least in my experience. Instead of dreading that mid-afternoon zombie takeover, try a power nap (no more than 20 minutes or you’ll feel groggy) right after lunch. Two mornings in one day! Awesome!
- Taking a midday nap is a mini-Sabbath. When you think about it, there’s no more vulnerable activity we engage in. When you’re sleeping, you are completely defenseless. You are also "getting nothing done", which drives some of us crazy, which is why we need to practice Sabbath. Taking a nap is like a mini-Sabbath, then. It’s a time when we remind ourselves that we are loved because we exist, not because we produce or create things. It’s a reminder that the world does just fine without your constant management, that your worth is not determined by your productivity, that you can trust God to handle things while you’re asleep, and sometimes you actually get more done by "doing" less.
Hooray for naps!