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When All Else Fails, Take A Nap

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By Lisa Lorden Myers

Editor's Note: Lisa Lorden Myers, a CFS and fibromyalgia patient from California, is a well-known writer. This article originally appeared at the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia site of About.com, where Lisa was the guide for several years. She now runs the website
Living with CFS & Fibromyalgia.


If you suffer from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or fibromyalgia, you've probably experienced those times when you simply "hit a brick wall"-you can't continue with even a seemingly simple task, and your body (or your brain) just gives out. When I have times like those, I'm occasionally too tired to even recognize what the problem is. I feel overwhelmed, uncoordinated, weak, confused, or depressed. Sometimes I just give up and go take a nap. Lo and behold, I almost always arise feeling at least a little rejuvenated and better able to do whatever it was that I couldn't before. Thus, I've developed a personal slogan: "when all else fails, take a nap."


Apparently, I'm not the only one who uses napping as a technique for better functioning. Famous nappers include Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Leonardo Da Vinci, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and many others. Brahms napped at the piano while composing his famous lullaby. Winston Churchill reported that he required a daily afternoon nap in order to cope with his wartime responsibilities. Even Jane Brody, health columnist for the New York Times, has said that naps should have "the status of daily exercise."


Why, then, is the practice of napping seen by society (at least American society) as merely a symbol of leisure, or even of laziness? Professor William Anthony, author of The Art of Napping, suggests: "Our culture has developed on the mistaken belief that productivity and napping are two different extremes." In fact, sleep deprivation is as American as apple pie. According to the National Sleep Foundation's (NSF) 2000 Omnibus Sleep in America Poll, 67 percent of adults get fewer than the recommended eight hours of sleep each night. Says Darrel Drobnich, director of government affairs at NSF: "We get about 20 percent less sleep than our ancestors did 100 years ago. We just don't put a priority on sleep."


In addition to the stigma that may be associated with napping, proponents of good "sleep hygiene" claim that a nap interferes with night-time sleep. But research has shown that people who nap report no greater nocturnal sleep problems than non-nappers. In fact, napping reflects a natural biological rhythm and is a common feature of healthy adult sleep-wake behavior. Professor Anthony also points to research suggesting that napping has a positive effect on both performance and mood.


Napping for CFS and FM Patients

For CFS and FMS sufferers, napping when you need it may be even more essential. With sleep disorders a common problem in these illnesses, a lack of restful sleep or reduced total sleep hours may require your body to make up the difference. CFS specialist Dr. Charles Lapp suggests that people with chronic fatigue syndrome (PWCs) "should strive to go with the flow or accommodate their own body rhythm." There may be periods when PWCs just can't sleep; in such cases it's best to nap and catch up whenever possible.


You should experiment with what works best for you. If you feel you need a nap but find that napping makes it harder to fall asleep at night, try limiting daytime sleep to 30-45 minutes or avoiding naps after 2:00pm. Most of all, listen to your body; don't let the misperception that naps are a sign of laziness prevent you from responding to your own needs. Certainly, CFS/FMS sufferers don't need one more thing to feel guilty about. Professor Anthony recommends that people become "proud nappers" in order to change our "nappist society." Says Anthony:


First of all, we need to be vigilant about nappist vocabulary, often used non-too-subtly by napaphobics. Proud nappers must inhibit people from using such phrases as stealing a nap, sneaking a nap, going down for a nap, and caught napping. Nappers have naps. They don't take, steal, or sneak naps. Nappers don't go down for a nap, they prepare for a nap. Nappers are never caught napping, because there is no crime to catch. Nappers are merely seen napping.


In fact, there are signs of progress; the NSF survey showed that naps are on the rise. About 10 percent of respondents said they nap before going to work and 35 percent nap afterward. In addition, some companies are waking up to the benefits of the nap; 16 percent of people surveyed said their employers allow naps during the day, and forty-six percent of those allowed to nap at work do so.


So next time you feel like you can't go on, consider the potential benefits of a nap. If all else fails, you just might awake ready to begin the day anew. Winston Churchill said: "You must sleep sometime between lunch and dinner, and no halfway measures. Take off your clothes and get into bed. That's what I always do."