Recent studies have shown that taking a short nap is a great way of improving productivity in a day.
You admired Google's sleep pods in the 2013 movie, The Internship.
Ben and Jerry's employees can go to a designated power nap room.
|detail of a 1964 patent to transform an ironing board to a slant board|
My dad – a middle school teacher – used to have a contraption called a 'slant board', which was first patented in the swinging sixties. He would lie with his feet higher than his head, the theory being that the blood flooded back to the brain in the course of a short kip. After school let out at 3.30pm, my dad would lock the door of his office, then recharge his batteries with a fifteen minute nap before doing his marking and lesson plans.
|Pliny the Elder from the TV series|
'You will wonder how a man as busy as he was could find time to compose so many books', writes Pliny the Younger to his friend Baebius Macer. The younger Pliny then goes on to give a detailed account of a Day in the Life of his famous uncle at the time he was in his late forties and early fifties. (Pliny the Elder had a weak chest and died aged 55 during the eruption of Vesuvius when overcome by the fumes.)
Pliny the Elder would rise in the early hours of the morning sometimes as early as midnight, and worked by lamplight. Pliny the Younger admits that his uncle fell asleep easily and that he would often doze off, then wake to resume his work. Shortly before dawn, he would visit his friend the Emperor Vespasian who was also up at that time. Upon returning home, Pliny the Elder would have a light breakfast, then doze in the sun while listening to ancient Roman version of an audiobook (i.e. a slave reading aloud to him). After his sunbathing session he would bath in cold water, eat a light lunch and have a short nap (dormiebat minimum). We know it was a power nap because afterwards he would work until dinner time 'as if he had started a new day'! (Book III letter V in the Loeb edition of Pliny's Letters)
|Pliny the Younger (left) from The Roman Mysteries|
If you are a freelance writer, you are probably in the enviable position of being able to do this. But what if you're afraid of falling asleep, missing dinner and waking up in the middle of the night? Or simply of sleeping too long and too deep and waking up groggy?
|Adopt an alternate position on the bed!|
1. I lie upside down at an angle on my bed, fully clothed but without shoes: barefoot in summer, socks in winter. This posture tells my body that Yes, I am going to sleep, but It's not sleep as we know it, Jim. In other words, it's different. It's a nap. It's a power nap.
2. I draw the curtains a little so that my sleeping space is dim but not too dark. Again, this tells my body that this is not the night-time sleeps. (There are two sleeps by the way, but that's another story!)
3. I put on a fan. The white noise tamps down background distractions and the soft breeze caressing your skin is very soothing, especially during long hot summers.
|a customised power nap playlist|
5. I make customised power nap playlists to tie in with my creative work in progress. To give you an idea, here is one of my power nap playlists, from when I was working on my latest P.K. Pinkerton mystery, The Case of the Pistol-packing Widows. If I choose songs that tie in with what I'm writing, then I get some subliminal input while I'm recharging. (And yes, putting together a power nap playlist is a great way of procrastinating.)
A deeply ingrained Protestant work ethic make many people uneasy about sleeping in the afternoon, even writers who have no disapproving boss and who have the luxury of setting their own hours. If tackled with the right attitude, a power nap can be a powerful tool for reviving energy and stimulating creativity. After all, you're a writer. You are your own boss.
Don't take it from me. Take it from Pliny the Elder!
P.S. Images of Pliny the Elder and Pliny the Younger are from the Roman Mysteries TV series. (copyright © 2008 The Little Entertainment Group)
P.P.S. If you have any tips, advice or comments, please do share!