I don’t really remember very much about kindergarten. I remember sitting cross-legged on an alphabet rug, reading textbooks about a panda and a rabbit named Buffy and Mack, and realizing I was the absolute last kid in class to learn to tie my shoes.
I also have vague memories of an otherwise nice teacher who swatted us on the hand with a ruler when we misbehaved or lacked the manual dexterity to move the bunny ear around the tree and through the hole after the first 700 failed attempts. (This was, of course, way back in the day when teachers were still allowed to swat kids.)
I’ve managed to block out most of the memories of all the ruler beatings, but one thing I do remember very, very clearly is that I HATED taking naps at school! I don’t know if they still inflict such torture upon today’s children — they don’t at my kids’ school — but when I was a kindergartener they made us keep a nap mat at school and sleep for an hour every day right after lunch.
Naptime was just the worst. For one thing, it was utterly humiliating. I was 5 years old, for Chrissake! That was old enough to dress myself, bathe myself, tie my own … OK, scratch that one. But still! Naps are for babies. It was ridiculous.
Beyond the emotional pain, the process itself was agonizing. I was 2 or 3 when I stopped taking naps at home, and the last thing I wanted to do at school was sleep. It was utter torture trying to remain completely still and quiet for an entire hour, when all I really wanted was to giggle and talk to my friends. Let’s just say the back of my hand became very well acquainted with my teacher’s ruler that year. I was a bit mischievous, but it wasn’t my fault. I was bored nearly to death because NAPS SUCKED!!!
My how things change! What was I thinking? At this point in my life, I would give almost anything most days for a solid hour of glorious post-lunch sleep. Oh, the exquisite luxury of lying down in a quiet, dimly lit room and enjoying a snooze while the delicious chicken Philly I had at the Mediterranean Sandwich Co. slowly digests. Man, that’s the life!
With a family and a job and what feels like a million other responsibilities, it’s pretty hard to find time for a decent nap these days, but that certainly doesn’t stop me from trying. Last Saturday, I took my kids out for half a day of fun local activities and then came home with full intentions of indulging in a post-lunch snooze.
By my estimation I’d been asleep for approximately seven minutes when I stirred enough to detect a small hand shaking my shoulder and a soft voice repeating over and over, “Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama.” I tried to ignore it in the hopes it would just go away but it only grew louder. Next I reached out and swatted at the air, hoping I’d get lucky and hit a snooze button, but instead I heard, “Jeez mom! You nearly poked me in the eye!”
“What do you want?” I finally asked, squinting enough to make out my son leaning over me, inches from my face. He smiled sweetly. “I just wanted to ask you what time you were going to wake up.”
“You woke me up just to ask me what time I’m planning to wake up?!?!” I said, exasperated. He smiled even sweeter. “I guess I just missed you,” he said. Those seven minutes apart were indeed lonely and painful for us all. Oh, he’s lucky he’s so cute and that I didn’t have a ruler!
Naps may be a rare indulgence for most busy adults, but according to medical experts they’re an absolutely wonderful addition to our day. Among their many benefits, regular afternoon naps can increase memory, alertness and creativity, reduce stress and fatigue, improve stamina, motor skills and overall productivity, and brighten your mood. Some studies have also shown regular naps can reduce risk for heart attacks and other diseases.
Most of you have probably heard that in many countries around the world, naps are considered a normal part of the work day. In many parts of China, for example, it is customary for offices to close for up to an hour after lunchtime so workers can nap at their desk without disruption.
There are even quite a few American companies that have gotten on board with the idea of a designated office naptime, boasting happier and more productive employees. That sounds fantastic. Why is this not a bigger “thing”?
In a country where work hours are getting longer and vacation time is becoming less common, it’s hard to imagine many employers offering naptime on the clock. But it does sound like something that could catch on in Mobile, especially during our brutal summers.
We’re known for a lot of things — some better than others — but I would be damn proud to tell people I’m from the city that shuts down every day for a post-lunch nap. (No one has to know about the lunchtime cocktails that make many of our townsfolk so sleepy!)
It doesn’t even have to be an hour. According to current research the optimal length of an afternoon nap is 20 minutes. That really doesn’t sound like much, but apparently it provides the maximum benefit without causing drowsiness.
Still, that sounds pretty short to me, but I can’t say for sure. I’ll have to do some research by napping for a different length each day for several years and see how I feel. For science. The hard part will be convincing my energetic and mischievous almost-7-year-old Mini-Me that naps are totally awesome and next time he should join me.
Ain’t! Gonna! Happen!