Yay! It’s naptime!

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz …

Huh? Whuh? No, no … I’m awake, I’m awake.

Just catching a quick “desk nap” here at work. If I put a couple of number-filled pages on the proofreading easel in front of me, no one even notices if I doze off for a few minutes. In fact, I challenge anyone — even the most alert, meth-addled reader out there — to stay awake while perusing column after column of financial numbers.

It’s a technique that anesthesiologists and executioners could learn a lot from.

At this stage in my life, I’ve pretty much mastered the art of the power nap. I’ve discovered over the years that even as little as five minutes of unconsciousness can prove to be quite refreshing. Somehow, I always manage to catch myself almost as soon as the sleep has done its rejuvenating job, and snap awake before my head flops back and my mouth starts leaking.

I first developed this useful practice back when I was in college. Several times a semester, I’d make the 480-mile drive from Tallahassee, Fla., to Miami to visit my parents. Anyone who’s ever driven on the Florida Turnpike for almost 250 miles of that journey can testify how dull it is. You almost wish giant, fire-breathing alligators would emerge from the Everglades and start consuming motorists whole, just to provide enough stimulation to keep you awake.

Since most of these mega-gators have become threatened due to encroachment on their habitats, I started refreshing myself with mini-naps while barreling down the highway at 70 m.p.h. Sounds dangerous, I know, but I was always able to catch myself in time to avoid a side-trip into the canal.

Those were good times.

Today, I’m in the same boat as most other hard-working Americans, and it’s a boat that’s likely going to run aground soon because everyone is so drowsy. We’ve packed so many activities into our busy schedules that, in order to make room for it all, we steal from the time we should be sleeping.

Stories of the consequences of this trend are all over the news. A bus driver heading from North Carolina to New York tries to catch 40 winks, and around the 35th one — oops — his motorcoach goes off a bridge, killing four. Airline pilots headed for Minneapolis end up halfway to the North Pole before realizing their passenger jet was on autopilot while they snoozed.

Even Vice President Biden was caught napping during a presidential address to Congress. Had al-Qaeda chosen to attack the U.S. during that vulnerable moment, Biden’s slumber would likely have been disturbed, rendering him grouchy and out-of-sorts for the rest of the afternoon.

On a typical day, following what is a typical night of about five hours sleep, I’ll take two planned naps. First comes the one I take in my car during what is supposed to be my lunch break. I’ll turn on the air-conditioning, drive to the back of our office park, recline my seat and crank up the NPR. Within moments, the soothing voice of Terry Gross and her “Fresh Aire” guest (hopefully, a poet) have me nodding.

If I need to wake up by a predetermined time — say, to keep my job — I set my virtually fail-safe internal alarm clock and inevitably find myself jarred awake at that precise moment. Somehow, I’ve been blessed with what is arguably a super-human skill in this regard. I just have to figure out now how to use it for the good of all mankind.

The other planned nap occurs when I get home from work, about 3:30 p.m. I get to do this one in my own home, usually with two cats already snoozing in my wife’s half of the bed.

Taylor and Harriet can be a bit of a handful when they want to eat or poop or whatever else it is they contribute around the house. But at this point in my day, with the heat soaring outside and the AC going full blast inside, they provide a tremendous amount of inspiration for those who want to sleep. What a great role model the modern housecat can be! I lie down, pulling the covers tight up to my chin. I reach over and give Taylor a gentle stroke, a muttered “kitty, kitty” and — boom — I’m out like a light.

As skilled as I may claim to be in the art of the “fast sleep,” I still often have trouble embarking on longer ventures into dreamland. Never was this more apparent than during several intercontinental flights I took to Asia a few years back.

It is nighttime. My body clock doesn’t believe this, however. After making a sleepless overnight flight from Charlotte to Germany, killing most of a morning in Frankfurt before boarding another nine-hour slog toward India, it really could be any time at all, including the 23rd century. It’s dark outside the plane, though only a couple of window-seat passengers have their sliding shades open.

The incessant thrum of the jet engines speed us through the high altitudes above Iran. All around the cabin, fellow passengers are sleeping blissfully. Some have blankets pulled over their faces. Some heads are held in position by inflated neck pillows. A few have collapsed onto the shoulder of the person seated next to them, who might normally object if they so weren’t comatose.

Throughout the plane, Muslims are lying down with Hindus, Hindus are lying down with Christians, Asians are lying down with Europeans, and that young couple sitting on the bulkhead are sort of lying down, but on top of each other.

And me? I’m wide awake, trying to decide whether chapter 13 of a Sandy Koufax biography or an episode of “Who’s The Boss?” translated into Hindi will make my wakefulness less painful. Even with a double-dose of Ambien coursing through my veins, I remain wide awake.

Fortunately, within a few more hours, I’m comfortably tucked into my luxurious bed at Mumbai’s Leela Hotel, and the sleep comes easily. For days at a time.

Too bad I couldn’t have stepped outside that Airbus A320 for a power nap. I feel confident the lack of oxygen at 35,000 feet would’ve put me right out.

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2 Responses to “Yay! It’s naptime!”

  1. It's My Thoughts Says:

    hahaha you are very funny.. my idea of a power nap is 3 hours solid.. 😛
    love your blog and me want alligators too 😛

  2. Oscar Says:

    I have no trouble napping at any time. My problem is falling asleep driving. Same place, every day.

    I travel a lot – before the plane lifts its landing gear, I’m out.

    Maybe the power nap before I drive may help!

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