I resisted my doctor-recommended naps at first. Now I embrace them.
How we see the world shapes who we choose to be — and sharing compelling experiences can frame the way we treat each other, for the better. This is a powerful perspective.
As a toddler, I resisted napping with everything in me.
My mom says she’d be in the living room watching TV, trying to enjoy some child-free time, and I’d be yelling things in response to the TV from my bedroom. It didn’t matter how many times my mom told me that my little body needed rest in order to grow bigger and stronger. I wanted nothing more than to be up and engaged with the world.
All of my life I’ve been a doer. I’ve always wanted to spend my daytime hours absorbed in some sort of meaningful activity, be that working, reading a book, creating art projects, or learning new skills.
This, of course, is encouraged living in a society that places so much emphasis on productivity. At one point I was working a full-time job, teaching a class a few nights a week, single-parenting two young children, attending graduate school full time, and also maintaining a pretty active social life.
My friends jokingly called me Superwoman. It was a nickname I proudly wore.
Superwoman I was… until I suddenly wasn’t. Until finally my body put on the brakes and told me in no uncertain terms that I simply had to slow down.
I developed multiple chronic illnesses, including several with debilitating fatigue as a symptom, that forced me to reevaluate the way I moved through life.
Still, my desire to be going and doing often won out over what would make the most sense for my body.
I’d push myself to the extremes of my physical limits until I’d collapse in spasms in bed for several days — or even weeks.
As soon as my body regained some more strength and energy I was at it again, trying to cram as much into my body’s “good days” as I possibly could.
I was unable (or maybe unwilling) to see that by doing this, I was actually making my “good days” few and far between.
The first time a doctor suggested I schedule regular naps for myself, I’m sure I looked at him as if he were absolutely ridiculous.
Schedule naps? Force myself to lie down when there was even a hint of energy left in my body? Why would I do that, I thought, when there was stuff I could be doing?
Just like when I was a toddler, I resisted.
Yet, this idea kept coming up over and over, from doctors, from friends, from the authors of articles I read about chronic illness.
Slow down, they said. Save your “spoons.” Don’t push yourself outside of your “energy envelope.” Pace yourself.
I knew that in order to do this, I needed to change the way I looked at naps.
I needed to stop viewing naps as “lazy” or as a form of punishment when I’d rather just be doing things. Instead, I needed to view these periods of rest as an integral part of my day, as something productive in and of themselves.
Our bodies are being immensely productive when we rest. They work to heal our tissues, balance our hormones, and regulate our immune systems. Research shows that with sleep, our health improves, our pain levels decrease, and we can think more clearly.
When I started thinking about naps as times to allow my body to heal, my resistance toward them faded, and I gave myself permission to take care of myself in this way.
I quickly saw that scheduling times of rest during the day wasn’t something that was detracting from my productivity. In fact, it was the exact opposite!
Instead of burning out and crashing for days or weeks in bed, I was able to maintain a more consistent activity level.
I now make time for napping or resting in my daily schedule. If it looks like a day is getting too full, I’ll say no to activities or reschedule something for another day, because I’ve learned that my body needs time to rest.
Each day I take myself to bed and do what my mom desperately wanted me to do as a toddler: I rest. I allow my body to heal.
And when I wake up, I no longer feel like I’ve wasted my time. Instead, I thank my body for using that time to be so productive.
Angie Ebba is a queer disabled artist who teaches writing workshops and performs nationwide. Angie believes in the power of art, writing, and performance to help us gain a better understanding of ourselves, build community, and make change. You can find Angie on her website, her blog, or Facebook.