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The treachery of naps

Posted: September 17, 2013 11:49 a.m.
Updated: September 18, 2013 5:00 a.m.

Have you ever had one of those nights where you cannot, no matter how you try, fall asleep? It’s the most frustrating feeling to be sleepy and to know that with every minute you stay awake you’re getting closer to the hour you have to get up and that you are cheating yourself out of precious sleep minutes?

Yes, I recently had one of those nights. I usually fall asleep within minutes of my head hitting the pillow. It’s a very specific schedule, because I do take sleep very seriously. Right before bed I brush my teeth, floss (sometimes), wash my face, go lie down, say a few prayers and usually five minutes later, I’m out. Of course, there are variations on this schedule, typically on weekends I don’t have such a set routine, but during the work week, it is essential.

A few nights ago I messed all that up by doing the ultimate sleep-ruining activity … taking a nap after work. I don’t know why I did it! I wasn’t even that tired, but I got home and I thought well, maybe a nap would be OK. An hour later I woke up and it was dark out and I was wide awake and rejuvenated.

I tried going for a long walk, thinking it would tire me out, but no. It just energized me more. I lay in bed until two in the morning, unable to fall asleep.

I have always wondered what other people think about as they’re trying, unsuccessfully, to fall asleep. I think about the strangest things. Seriously, sometimes I shock myself at how random my thoughts are before falling asleep. Those pre-sleep thoughts tend to follow a trend for me, they start with a normal enough thought, like “what will I have for lunch tomorrow,” and they end with me considering the consistency of soil in Ireland during the great potato famine. At that point, I’m like, whoa Haley, how did you get here?

Well, I thought about lunch, and soup seemed appealing so, then, what kind of soup? Clam chowder, of course. And then I think about what goes into clam chowder and instead of focusing on clams, the star ingredient, I think about potatoes. Typical, since I’m sure I’m of Irish descent and I love a good potato. So, I start thinking about kinds of potatoes … russet, red-skinned and the delicate, precious white potatoes. And then I think about how it must be hard to choose which kind of potato to put into a batch of clam chowder, because there are so many fantastic types.

Then, I start thinking about how awful it would be to not have potatoes when you wanted them and what does that make me think of, but the Irish potato famine. Admittedly, I know next to nothing about this event, other than what the name suggests … a shortage of potatoes in Ireland.

So, of course, I ponder what caused that, and being the daughter of a farmer, my thoughts go to soil. That’s where it all comes from, you know? I asked myself, do they have rocky soil over there or is it more mineral-rich? And how is the precipitation. Then, I stopped myself and said, no more of this. Go to sleep now. That was around 1 a.m., so there was a full extra hour of random associations and thoughts spreading like kudzu through my sleep-resistant mind.

 The moral of the story, kids, is don’t take naps! Well, unless you need it, then it’s probably OK. But, ask yourself, is this going to keep me up all night and am I ready for that commitment? Is this nap worth being up until the wee hours evaluating soil composition in Ireland? If you’re me, the answer is no. 

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