I spent the recent snow day cocooned in my apartment, mostly out of fear of driving. My spectacular slips on icy sidewalks remain legendary in Hyde Park, so I didn’t think I’d fare too well on the roads. Being inside all day is actually something I love doing since I’m a homebody at heart. And short winter days definitely foster hibernation habits. However, since sleeping all day is not option and my 6-7ish hours of daily sleep aren’t cutting it, I’m setting my sights on the perfect nap.
I come from a long line of narcoleptics; most family photographs include at least one family member asleep. According to family lore, as a baby I slept through an earthquake and once when I was five I slept through an entire weekend. Needless to say, I’m a big fan of sleep. When I was an undergrad I went to sleep every night at 10:30 and woke up at 7:30. Yes, that’s 9 glorious hours of slumber and I was probably the only college student in the nation getting that much sleep. My roommate, naturally, was not as big of fan of my sleep as I was. Even when things got busy, I never skimped on sleep. I had a friend who would pull all-nighters constantly and he would brush-off his zombie-like appearance saying he’d sleep when he was dead. I can’t relate to that. I want to sleep right now. I could, in fact, take a nap right now.
I started taking naps seriously when I was studying abroad in Spain because it seemed that everyone else did. It’s true that everything, including uni, shuts down for a couple of hours after lunch and that it’s called siesta. But as the Spanish liked to point out, only foreigners took naps. Which didn’t bother me because now I could sleep without judgment. It might have been due to several factors, but during my sleepy year in Spain I’d never felt so energetic and alert.
Ten years later, I long to reinstate this practice. And after reading an article in the student newspaper while at the University of Toronto a couple of weeks ago I know it’s feasible. After all, Canadians know a thing or two about proper hibernation. The article, a defense of napping, noted that Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein napped during the day and it’s been a highly regarded cultural practice in Japan for hundreds of years. Sara Mednick, a professor of psychiatry at UCSD, states that “we’re biologically inclined to sleep in two major phases, both at night and during the day”, for about 90 minutes.
I’m not sure how this will all shake out, especially since I’m a full-time student. But a request I made a few months ago now seems pretty brilliant and visionary. My dissertation adviser was outfitting a common room in the center she directs and asked for ideas regarding furniture. I was lamenting the absence of places to sleep on campus; at Chicago we had a lounge with fireplaces and sofas that was the place where everyone slept between classes. So, half-joking but mostly serious, I requested a place to crash. Perhaps this Tuesday, before my afternoon seminar, I can assess the new sofas.