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Facts and Arguments Napping my way to nirvana: Learning to love the late-afternoon snooze

Mike Freiheit/The Globe and Mail

Facts & Arguments is a daily personal piece submitted by readers. Have a story to tell? See our guidelines at tgam.ca/essayguide.

No one told me at the age of 4, when I had to give up my naps, that I'd get them back.

I loved my naps. With three older brothers to torment me all day, naps provided perfect respite – and also a good excuse for tormenting these same three older brothers. "She hasn't had her nap, don't blame her!" my mom would say.

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The five long decades that followed were painful for all who shared my space: my children and spouse, children's friends, stepchildren, clients and dogs. They will all confirm I am much better if I've had a nap.

Napping returned in my early 50s, initially prompted by necessity born from attending early-morning boot-camp classes that had me foolishly doing burpees at 6 a.m. and nodding off at 3 p.m. I perfected the snapnap, becoming a master of the three-minute reboot. That is all it takes in mid-afternoon. I close the blinds, turn off the lights, sprawl out and set my phone to gently remind me to become vertical in three minutes. And I'm back.

In earlier iterations at my office, I would occasionally curl up under the desk and ask my assistant not to let calls through because I was (ahem) "working on a report."

I thought these snapnaps were fantastic until I discovered the full-on, late-afternoon, under-the-covers nap. You know the ones I mean … where you just lay your head on the pillow and say to yourself and anyone else who may be listening that you're "just going to lie down for a while." Without notice, a while becomes an hour, and the light dims. The streetlights are on by the time your eyes open and your body stretches. Now that's a nap. Sometimes I've gone for an hour and a half. This is so much more than a nap. It verges on a mini-sleep, perhaps better known as a pre-sleep.

I think I have a research project here, or certainly a profitable book. I can envisage the cover already; it involves clouds. I will think on this as I close my eyes …

I am much more pleasant to be around when I've lain down for a while. The dog notices. I notice. I am sure my husband notices, too, but he's wise enough not to mention it.

As I contemplate the napping research for my bestselling book with the cloud cover that will provide me the income to take my naps on tropical beaches, I learn that there are different types of naps. Planned napping is what happens when you try to invest in the sleep bank in anticipation of a late night. This is rarely successful. The sleep bank is very good at noting deficits, but woefully inadequate at accepting pre-emptive deposits.

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Emergency napping is what happens just before you drive off into the rock cut on Highway 401. The notice of the need for an emergency nap is usually accompanied by a sudden grasping of your arm by your companion in the passenger seat, around the same time that you notice the sound of him gasping and hear your wheels jittering against the corrugations at the side of the highway.

Habitual napping is what every three-year-old enjoys, whether they admit it or not, and what every adult should employ whenever they have the chance.

Did you know that there's a National Sleep Foundation? How did I not know this existed? It's been around for 25 years, apparently, set up around the last time I really needed my naps.

With the birth of my first child, everyone said, "Sleep when the baby sleeps." Yeah, right. That would have been fine if I'd had no inclination to ever do laundry so that there'd be clean clothes for when the baby was awake, or to pick up all the things that seem to invade a house with the arrival of a small person or to make something for dinner that was somewhat more nutritious than a piece of toast with peanut butter.

On really good days, when I did not sleep when the baby slept, I actually had a shower and blow-dried my hair. This was a notable event. Sometimes I would read the first section of the newspaper. This was pre-e-mail and pre-Facebook, so I was lucky. These days, I'd never get anything done.

I digress. That is what happens when your brain is full of energy: It moves in all different directions, fuelled and made passionate by the magic of sleep. I will have to be more focused when I'm organizing the chapters of my bestselling book with the cloud cover.

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This same sleep foundation tells me that naps will improve my performance, memory and reaction time. I will have fewer accidents and make fewer mistakes. At last! A perfect excuse for when I drop things, break things or drive into things ("It wasn't my fault, officer, I haven't had my nap!").

A nap can be a "pleasant luxury, a mini-vacation," the expert literature reports. That may be pushing it a bit. It's a nap. I will only consider it a vacation if it occurs on the aforementioned tropical beach.

I also learned that there is stigma associated with napping, in that it is taken by some to indicate laziness, a lack of ambition and low standards.

Always a standard bearer for breaking down stigma, I am prepared to stand at the vanguard and state, with pillow firmly in hand, "I nap and I am proud!"

Trish Crowe lives in Kingston.

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