When we were young children, we took a nap everyday after lunch. It was believed that naps provided down time which contributed to the physical and mental development of a young child. It also prevented children from becoming overtired, which could affect their moods and make it harder for them to fall asleep at night.
Many famous grown – ups are known for being prodigious nappers: Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Salvador Dali, Winston Churchill, Bill Clinton, John F. Kennedy, Leonardo DaVinci, and Aristotle, to name a few.
According to research conducted by Junxin Li, Ph.D of the Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology at St Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD, an hour long nap may improve memory and cognitive function for people over 65.
This is good news, at least to me, because I have found myself crashing after lunch for at least a year. I’ve felt guilty about it because I have this internal narrative that I’m wasting my life, using naps as a means of escaping reality. The truth is, a good nap is a way of letting myself rest from a deep exhaustion brought on by the ongoing post trauma of estrangement..
I now understand that these naps, the post-lunch dip, the overwhelming desire to close my eyes and just rest are part and parcel of growing older but also of a weary depression. It’s my body asking for a time – out. It’s my mind begging for a break from rumination and negativity. It’s my heart crying out for healing.
There was a segment recently on CBS about family estrangement. One of the “experts” said that estrangement is more difficult than losing someone through death. I would have to agree. The PTSD that most of us experience is serious business, one that requires awareness, knowledge of triggers, the likelihood of depressive episodes, and the importance of taking time to rest.
We live in a society that frowns upon rest. We’re so achievement oriented, we think nothing of working a 60 hour week, sleeping less than 5 hours a night, all in the interest of getting ahead and being a success. Many of us, following an estrangement, stay busy – too busy – running from the pain or at least dulling it. Activity is very important for healing, but equally important is learning to rest, to stop running on an emotional treadmill to nowhere and taking time to replenish your heart, mind, body and soul.
A friend of mine recently asked me what a typical day is for me. My answer was: I play piano, read, write, daydream, worry too much, laugh, cry, nap, watch clouds, hike in the mountains, walk on the beach, watch too much TV and search for ways to revive my spirit.
Everyday, I renew my quest for peace. I yearn for serenity. I want a clear mind and a healthy body.
To that end, I’ve found that a nice, cozy nap can help.