I tried an interesting experiment in February, taking a short nap every day that I could.
This busy mom was finding herself so exhausted and cranky at the end of every day. Trying to just get the kids to help clean up the kitchen after dinner was overwhelming. My husband’s army schedule would have him away from home for five weeks. Right after the busyness of the holidays. The mental and physical load was exhausting. Plus, I was doing some interesting reading. Reading that pointed to the value of adult naps.
One of the books was Greg McKeown’s Essentialism. In the chapter on sleep, Greg says, “Ironically, in a Nonessentialist culture these things—space, listening, playing, sleeping, and selecting—can be seen as trivial distractions. At best they are considered nice to have. At worst they are derided as evidence of weakness and wastefulness.”
The importance of scheduling sleep to live a productive life is not new, but I definitely needed the reminder. So I was reading about sleep in books. Then some articles started showing up in my inbox, like How to Get a Better Nights Sleep. And this fascinating reflection on pandemic sleep habits. Even Instagram reels about sleep/naps in other cultures were coming my way.
So I decided I needed to schedule a nap every day that I could. I put the baby down for her midday nap, plugged in my phone, and set it to airplane mode. Then I set a 30-minute timer and pulled a sleep mask over my eyes.
I did not fall asleep every time. Occasionally, I hit a repeat on the timer to settle into a deeper sleep. And I found myself facing my afternoons and evenings with a much better attitude and energy. I could actually finish the dishes after dinner, and not drag myself to all the evening AWANA clubs and basketball practices. My brain was clearer for engaging in conversations with the kids and I was less likely to lose my temper with them when I successfully took a nap.
As a working mom, I am going from predawn until post dusk. During my CNA years, I would often use my 30-minute lunch break to sneak in a nap in the car. Now working from home, I still need that middle-of-the-day reset. Especially when I am in a single parenting phase (which as a military family happens often.) As a human being, I have limits and I need to reset. I need sleep and apparently, I need to do so in the middle of the day as well as long stretches at night. That short nap actually made me more productive and meant that I had a better attitude as well.
The bible has sleep advice
I began to do a little reading as well about the gift of sleep in the Bible. There is some contrast in Proverbs about not sleeping too much, in other words being lazy is not good. Proverbs 20:13 Don’t love sleep, or you will become poor; open your eyes, and you’ll have enough to eat. But overworking yourself is equally problematic. Psalm 127:2 In vain you rise up early and stay up late, working hard to have enough food – yes, he gives sleep to the one he loves. Ecclesiastes 5:12 The sleep of the worker is sweet, whether he eats little or much, but the abundance of the rich person permits him no sleep. Constantly working and hustling leads to burnout. Burnout is a psychological phenomenon being addressed in American culture right now.
In her book Can’t Even, Anne Helen Peterson defines burnout: “It’s the sensation of dull exhaustion that, even with sleep and vacation, never really leaves. It’s the knowledge that you’re just barely keeping your head above water, and even the slightest shift—a sickness, a busted car, a broken water heater—could sink you and your family. It’s the flattening of life into one never-ending to-do list and the feeling that you’ve optimized yourself into a working robot that happens to have bodily functions, which you do your very best to ignore. It’s the feeling that your mind, as Cohen puts it, has turned to ash.”
Exhaustion has become such a prevalent part of our culture that I forget that I shouldn’t be exhausted all the time. Yes, I have a baby, and I am working, and have three big kids who need me to take them places and have conversations, and yes, I have depression as well. However, I can take small steps to manage my exhaustion. Otherwise, I am actually creating more problems than solutions.
The are people doing a lot to help promote the idea of Sabbath and rest. Celia Miller wrote this beautiful piece, Implementing Stillness Amidst a Busy Schedule addressing how to find moments within the busyness of motherhood to rest. Speaker and writer Annie F. Downs has a bunch of practical ideas for Sabbath practices daily and weekly in this video series. Sabbath is an important practice,
I like remembering stories of sleep in the Bible, whether it is Jesus sleeping on a boat, or Daniel sleeping in a lion’s den. Rest and sleep is a gift, as Jesus tells us in Mark 2:27. “Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for people, not people for the Sabbath.”
Or David reminds us in Psalm 4:8 “I will lie down and sleep peacefully, for you, Lord, make me safe and secure.”
I will Nap more.
I will be preserving my scheduled nap as much as possible in the coming months. Maybe when the sunshine returns I will experience an increase in energy. Yet even just planning to have my mind and body rest seems good. The work will always be there for me to come back to. As an adult, I am allowed to take a nap. Maybe I can just come back to it with a better attitude, a clear mind, and a stronger body.