Sep 23, 2020

Doze Were The Days, My Friend

Napping is great! Napping Is Awful! Discuss

By Ed Goldman
The American Heart Association’s logo always looks to me as though an arsonist got hold of a valentine-candy box. But in light of its recent mixed-signal advisory about napping, the organization might want to change its brand to a tower of Jell-O®. Any flavor will do. Even third-cousin Monya’s Seafoam Salad Surprise.
I’m suggesting this because in a recent report, the association said that daily naps are very good for us—except when they’re not, and instead can mean something may be very wrong with us. Questions? Here are some FAQs I just assembled:
Q: So, is a daily nap bad for you or good for you?
A: Yes.
Q: I tend to doze off while checking texts and Facebook. Should I be concerned?
A: Yes.
Q: But—
A: Especially if you’re driving at the time.
Q: Oh, okay. I get that. I—
A: Or not. LOL!
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Since the Covid-19 international house arrest began in earnest six months ago, I’ve found myself taking a 15-to-45-minute nap almost every afternoon. It’s become so routine that if I don’t lumber upstairs at the same approximate time every day (3 p.m. or a little later), my 18-year-old tabby, Osborn the Magnificent, calls out from my bed, where he’s been lounging in wait of my arrival. (He does this at midnight, too. I’m fearful one of these times he’s going to shriek, ”What, another movie? Meow?” In this instance, “meow” would be a stand-in for “Now?!” or the Yiddish “Nu?!” which means, “So?!” as in “Explain yourself!”)
In my scrupulously scientific research, which consists mainly of nodding off while reading texts and Facebook posts, I’ve noticed this napping phenomenon has become pretty widespread.
The upside is that people who subsisted on five or six hours of sleep at best when they needed to report to work at 8—after getting their kids off to school—are now playing catch-up with their sleep cycles. This means, ironically, that one of the most contagious diseases in history may be causing an uptick in our personal health. We’re becoming a nation of well-rested people.
On the other hand, it’s clear that a number of people are napping because they’re bored beyond tears. (They were bored TO tears until their ducts dried up from the sheer tedium.) Also, some people are napping so much, and so soundly, that when it comes time to crawl into their summer jammies and bed, they suffer insomnia. They often ascribe this to stress but seem to forget if they had a fully refreshing 90-minute sleep session in the afternoon, they may not be tired enough to drift off at a previously appointed time.
So they’re falling asleep (if they even do) much, much later—and sleeping until what was previously acknowledged as lunchtime. This causes them to feel guilty about not having worked all morning, forgetting the role model established by Hanna-Barbera’s Yogi Bear theme song: “He will sleep ‘til noon, but before it’s dark/He’ll have every picnic basket that’s in Jellystone Park.”
Let me quantify the confusion by quoting from an article in the American Heart Association News:

  1. ”…(A) 2019 study in the British medical journal Heart tracked the napping habits of nearly 3,500 people (for) over five years and found those who napped once or twice a week were 48 percent less likely to have a cardiovascular event than those who didn’t.”
  1. Same article, one paragraph later: “Conversely, a meta-analysis of 11 studies published in the journal Sleep in 2015 showed people who nap for an hour or more a day had 1.82 times the rate of cardiovascular disease than people who didn’t nap.”
The article suggests that “lying down for a nap or laying your head on the desk might be a good time to reflect on the importance of sleep.” Unfortunately, the article doesn’t specify where you should be when you lie down for that nap (I’d discourage doing so in an auto showroom or while in line to buy frozen salmon at Costco) or make clear that you should lay your head only on your own desk (you don’t want to become a hobby for your company’s HR department).

I’d write more about this dilemma but my cat’s summoning me to come upstairs and I realize I’m suddenly exhausted. I also have some picnic baskets to gather before sunset.

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).