Who Needs a Nap?
June 2nd, 2010

Back in January Arianna Huffington (of The Huffington Post) went to sleep. 

Well, more appropriately she went to sleep at a decent hour, and woke up at a decent hour.  Apparently this was a big change for her.  In fact, it was such a big change that she adopted the buddy system and invited Glamour’s Cindi Leive to help her out with this paradigm shift.  And in fact such a change would be a paradigm shift for most American women. 

In this article on her blog she explained the rationale for this sleepy experiment.  To grossly oversimplify her position, she asserts that women, in an effort to compete with male counterparts in the workplace, have sacrificed all work-life balance, the final component of which has been their sleep.  We stay up late to work from home, catch up on house work, enjoy 10 moments of quiet, or indulge in our favorite TV shows.  As it turns out, working single women and working moms of young children are the most sleep deprived, averaging six hours nightly, as compared to the recommended minimum of 7.5. 

I look at this statistic and it astounds me.  I average 7.5 to 8 hours of sleep per night.  I certainly have nights that only offer me six hours of sleep, but I know that I couldn’t sustain that sort of a schedule for more than a couple of nights at a stretch.  I’m prone to wonder if this is because I’m hopelessly spoiled, or just a brilliant time manager.  Frankly, I know that neither is true.  It’s more likely that I’m just fantastically lazy and that my sheets are extra soft and irresistible.  And that I inevitably catch a cold when I get too little sleep.  I’m not noble.  I’m just a bit of a bum.

Here in the blogosphere we often lament the elusive nature of balance.  We strive for it daily, but for many of us it remains just out of our grasp.  For all of our scheduling, planning, and other attempts at organization we feel frazzled and overwhelmed by our lives.  We admit that amidst our harried routines of to and fro exist moments of sheer joy; moments when we see through the fog of obligations and exhaustion and truly appreciate the fullness of our lives.  And what glory that is!  It is mind-boggling, I think, that so many women can be this tired and still sit down at the end of a day and feel grateful, rewarded, and happy that our lives are so full.  We start many days running on coffee and adrenaline and still feel blessed by the snuggles from our babies, spouses, and pets.  Even when our reserves are depleted, we’re forces to be reckoned with!

But I wonder how our lives might feel different to us if we entered them rested.  This thought rings particularly true to me this morning.  Last night I slept about 6.5 hours, and I already feel the day hanging over my head with weight and reluctance, rather than with energy and optimism.  (On mornings like this I am prone to wish I were a coffee drinker…)

So what is it, then, that keeps us off kilter when it comes to sleep?  Why do we struggle to prioritize this one simple (and free!) thing that so many of us would admit wholly changes our outlook, energy level, and capabilities?  Countless words have been written about the value of self-care.  We understand that we can care for our families better when we care for ourselves.  And yet we leave ourselves in the dust in an effort to keep up with the whirlwind around us. 

Today I will ponder these things.  I will ponder these things along with the challenge of how I might sneak a nap into my day without being noticed by my coworkers.

9 Responses to “Who Needs a Nap?”

  1. Eva @ Eva Evolving Says:

    I need a lot of sleep. Or maybe I’ve become accustomed to a lot of sleep. During the week, 7+ hours. On the weekends, more. I LOVE sleeping in, and I could almost always take a nap. But – and this is important – I don’t have kids yet.

    I think there’s something from my childhood that lingers in the back of my mind. If I go to bed on time, I’ll miss something good. Fun things happen if I stay up late! Which is hardly true, but it still keeps me from going to bed when I should.

    And reading a good book always keeps me up late – but I’m not complaining!

  2. Gale Says:

    Eva – reading gets me too. Last night I was up finishing Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers.

  3. BigLittleWolf Says:

    Another really important post, Gale. I also read the articles on HuffPost about women and sleep. I envy those who sleep – and nap. I fear that the reality for many of us can never be the ideal, and I do think it eats at our health.

    As for napping, it’s never been in my toolkit, anymore than 7 hours of sleep/night has been. If I get 5 and a half or 6, I’m delirious. But I agree – it’s a problem of culture and expectations – on men as well as women.

  4. Anne Says:

    Well, I take after my sister…I always sleep. Even in college, when sleep deprivation was part of the culture…I went to bed at 10:00. People probably thought I was a freak, but I didn’t care. This girl likes her bedtime!! These days, I slip from time to time, and get more like 7 hours (instead of my usual 8), but generally I stick by my rule, even if it means turning out the lights at 9:30. Someday I may not always have this luxury, but for now? It’s nice. And I hate naps.

  5. Brownpaperbaggirl Says:

    I love sleep. Although I’ve never been able to take naps, sadly. Great post!

  6. becca Says:

    The answer is simple for me. Although it’s not necessarily the RIGHT answer. I crave me time. And I get too little of it. And the only time I can get it is during hours where I otherwise should be sleeping. During the kids naps I either feel I should be productive or I spend time doing something For Me (blogging, reading). At night after they are asleep – same story. And then I regret it come the morning when I haven’t gotten enough sleep. I complain constantly of being overtired and cranky because of it but I also complain when I don’t get anything done around the house or am behind reading blogs or writing my own. So I don’t have an answer here at all. I’m still trying to figure it out myself! Thanks for this great post!

  7. Elizabeth @ Life in Pencil Says:

    I need sleep. I average 8 hours a night, and often get 9. I just do NOT function well with little sleep. I’ve had trouble sleeping the last several weeks, and it’s super distressing to me. It gives me insight into how many people feel daily. I have a friend who is a chronic insomniac. He sleeps 3-4 hours a night, and has done so consistently for 3+ years. Can you IMAGINE? I can’t.

    PS: I loved Outliers.

  8. TheKitchenWitch Says:

    Sleep is my escape. I need it and don’t get enough of it. At the moment, I’m losing it because of life “issues” and the fact that Miss M. has become The Night Wanderer. I am not enjoying this phase. Not at all. I also am beginning to resemble a 90-year-old prostitute.

  9. Privilege of Parenting Says:

    Hey KW, does a 90 year old prostitute have such a demanding work schedule that there’s little time for sleep? I think this is an overlooked cause we should keep an eye on.

    I might not be making sense, however, for as I read your post, Gale, I realize that recently I’m lucky to get 6 hours of sleep. I do find that if a nap is possible it is not only a life-saver but often the most delicious of all sleep (although the waking up is a little hard).

    Sweet Dreams