As a traveling person on pilgrimage, I don’t have a regular schedule—no set wake-up time, morning or evening routine, cooking schedule or routine habits. The one thing I do nearly every day, without fail, is to take a nap.
Not to be immodest, but I have become quite skilled at taking naps. I can nap sitting up in a chair or bus or airplane. I can nap lying down on the grass or even on pavement. I can nap for five or ten minutes, actually fall asleep, and feel rested when I wake up. It usually feels like there are two parts of my day: before my nap, and after my nap.
I get a second wind after a nap that gives me a surge of energy to run errands, attend meetings, work on projects, or do whatever else it is that I choose to do with my time. Being aware of the rhythms of effort and rest—and specifically, taking a nap daily—has become infrastructure for me living my fullest life.
World famous, Gold Star nappers include Leonardo da Vinci, Albert Einstein, and Hillary Clinton. If you nap every day, you’re basically guaranteed to become extremely attractive, successful, accomplished, and wise to boot. That’s just how the physics of the universe works, bro.
That said, I know it’s not easy for everyone to take a nap. Sometimes it’s hard to fall asleep, or you don’t feel rested when you wake up.
I wrote this blog post to spread the gospel of naps, and to help people who desire to nap to gain the skill of doing so. Here is my advice about learning to take restful naps:
First, notice when you’re tired. Become familiar with your own rhythms of wakefulness and sleepiness. I usually get tired about six or eight hours after waking up, and try to nap then—even if I woke up at four AM and I’m suddenly taking a nap at ten or eleven in the morning. As a great Zen master allegedly said, “When you are hungry, eat; when you are tired, sleep.” What can I say, I’m basically a self-taught Yoga Nidra guru.
When it’s nap time, set the context for a nap. Like everything in life, preparation is everything, and you need to set yourself up for success. Find a quiet space where you won’t be disturbed. Tell anyone in the house or building that you’re in that you’ll be taking a nap, and close the door to the room you’re in.
Know in advance how much time you have. In the ideal circumstances, there’s no rush whatsoever, you have plenty of time, and you can let your body to wake up when it’s rested without worrying about missing an important meeting. If you do have some kind of appointment, though, it’s perfectly possible to still take a restful nap even with a very short amount of time. Set an alarm, so that you can relax and trust your phone to keep you on schedule.
If you have a specific amount of time, make sure to give yourself a window of time before your next scheduled event so that you can transition from rest into activity. You also may want to take into account that it takes time to fall asleep—for me, something like five to fifteen minutes. The body likes to sleep in REM cycles, which are typically cycles of 90 to 120 minutes. However, a shorter nap, like twenty or thirty minutes or even five or ten minutes, can still be deeply restful.
Once the stage is set for an excellent nap, get comfortable. Lie down if you can. Put a blanket over you if that will feel good. Use earplugs and/or an eye mask if desired. Enjoy the physical sensations of being comfortable in your body.
The most important principle of successful napping is to disambiguate sleeping from resting. You can have a perfectly restful nap without falling asleep. Your body may or may not need to sleep, but it does need to rest.
This advice from Shinzen (from his post Help for Insomnia) also applies to napping skills:
This is a conceptual reframing, a profoundly different paradigm regarding the issue of sleep. The normal paradigm is:“I have to get a good night’s sleep or I’ll be a mess tomorrow”. The new paradigm is“If I get a good night’s rest, I’ll be fine tomorrow”.
Amazingly, it’s possible to get a good night’s rest without necessarily sleeping much or at all. Two things are required: (1) that the body get rest by lying very still and corpse-like. (2) that the consciousness get rest by engaging in a systematic focusing technique.
So once you’re comfortable and ready for a nap, stay still. Then, do some kind of meditation technique if you can. It doesn’t matter so much what technique you do—you could follow your breath, or do body scans, or note and label different aspects of your experience, or do loving-kindness meditation—but you need to occupy the mind with something that is not cognitively demanding, like planning a budget or considering negotiating tactics or any kind of rumination about the past or the future. That’s what effort and your waking life are for.
Instead, this is a time for doing something simple and non-cognitive. If possible, if you know how to, stay in your body and stay out of thinking and cognition. No thoughts, head empty.
When your nap is over, don’t just rush into the next thing. Notice how you feel. Celebrate any restfulness that’s present in your experience, even if you didn’t sleep. Enjoy any feelings of being wakeful, alert, and energized—really enjoy it.
It can also be helpful to record any ideas or tasks that may have arisen or occurred to you while resting.
Lastly, notice how the nap positively impacts the rest of your day. If something has clearly helped you to succeed in the rest of your life, you will naturally be incentivized to keep doing it.
Practice makes perfect. You’ll get better and better at napping with every passing afternoon siesta. Enjoy your newfound napping skills, and use them for good, not evil.
Here, enjoy some assorted tweets on napping as inspiration for your nap-abundant future:
waking up from a nap be like, “why is there a universe at all?”
the most based thing about me is that naps are my drug of choice. all other mind altering activities pale in comparison. all hail the nap, king of consciousness alterers
the infinite forefront of reality creating itself will now be lying down and taking a nap
type of guy who takes a nap at 7:30 pm
i’m like a hobbit for naps, i’m all about those drowsy morning dozes, the second naps, those clutch mid morning snoozes, the elevensies and the lunch naps and the sleepy afternoon siestas and the late-evening shut-eye seshes
varieties of nap:
- “didn’t get to nap today, alas…”
- “closed my eyes for a bit!”
- “did i even nap?”
- “damn, i really needed a nap!”
- “what even is the universe and why are we alive in it?!”
yeah, I take uppers (coffee) and downers (naps)
my dude,,, i don’t know how you’re napping but my day STARTS after my nap tbh. i’m on fire afterwards. lowkey feel like shit beforehand honestly
The old Zen saying: nap for a half hour every day, unless you are too busy. In that case, nap twice.
dude naps are my bread and butter, I literally took a restorative 12 minute nap since tweeting
today on “wow, i really needed a nap”
If you enjoyed this post, consider subscribing to my newsletter, my YouTube channel, or following me on Twitter to get updates on my new blog posts and current projects. You can also support my work and writing on Patreon.