The Art of Napping

I am a prolific napper, a serial snoozer. I can fall asleep just about anywhere. I’ve fallen asleep lying on sofas; I’ve fallen asleep sitting up in chairs; I’ve fallen asleep in airplanes, tour buses and cars; I’ve fallen asleep on park benches and in the grass next to park benches; I’ve fallen asleep in churches; I’ve fallen asleep during movies; I’ve fallen asleep during business presentations and lectures. Once, I even fell asleep standing up…in Rome, Italy…in the Vatican…right next to a display of priceless artifacts.



I’m not making this up. A few years ago, my wife and I took our family on a vacation to Italy. On the day we visited the city of Rome, I had hired a private tour guide to take us around and show us the sights. Our last stop was the Vatican. Our tour guide was a lovely, intelligent woman who enjoyed what she did, but she had a tendency to ramble. It was getting late in the day and we were all tired. I know I speak for all of us when I say that we had heard enough. All we could think about at this point was where we could get a good pizza and a couple bottles of Italian wine.

We were in a room at the Vatican filled with papal memorabilia going back to the 1st Century. It was very warm, and while our tour guide droned on and on about which number Pope did this or that in whatever century, I could feel my eyelids growing heavy. I was standing away from the group a bit with my arms folded, my typical tour-listening posture, when I started getting drowsy. There was nowhere to sit down, and there was no way to fight off the lethargy that had settled down over my body like a warm blanket. I blinked my eyes a few times and then slowly closed them. My head started to roll forward and my body started to relax. I could feel myself nodding off. Just as I was about to topple backwards into a suit of armor worn by a soldier who protected St. Lucius I in the 3rd Century, I caught myself. I snapped my eyes open and jerked to attention right before I tipped over. My younger brother, who was traveling with us on this trip, saw the whole thing. He started laughing out loud. He sidled over to me and said, “Did you just fall asleep standing up? You jerked awake and jumped so high that I thought a sniper had shot you in the achilles!"

I remember my dad taking naps on Sunday afternoons. He would get up early on Sunday mornings and hold services at two different churches. After we had lunch, he would lie down on the sofa and take a nap. This aggravated us kids because we wanted him to come outside and play football or baseball with us. We learned it was best to leave him alone while he grabbed a few winks.

My mom, on the other hand, would fall asleep at the strangest times in the strangest places. She would fall asleep in church or in the car. She would fall asleep at the piano and her sewing machine. It was not unusual for her to fall asleep during dinner with a fork full of food in her hand. We weren’t sure if it was some sort of medical condition or if she was just exhausted after chasing after five kids, baking fresh bread, preparing meals and cleaning the house every day. Under those conditions, anybody could have fallen asleep with fork in hand.

It’s possible that my propensity for napping is a genetic predisposition. I view it as an art form, a skill that I’ve improved and perfected over time.



I learned how to nap after I started working for a farmer in southern Wisconsin when I was 12 years old. The first day I worked for him, we baled hay all morning. It was hot, dirty, hard work. The farmer’s wife made us a delicious lunch and then the farmer and his aging father went outside, lay down underneath a shady tree, put their caps over their eyes and fell asleep for 20 minutes. That’s all it took for them to be refreshed and ready to work the rest of the day.

When I worked for my wife’s dad and brother on their dairy farm, we’d get up at 5:00 a.m. to milk cows. We’d finish around 8:00 a.m., go inside for breakfast, and then we’d all take a 20 minute nap before resuming our day.

When I was teaching, I would lie down on the living room floor after dinner and take a quick snoozer while the kids crawled all over me.

My friends and my family tease me about napping. They take pictures of me when I fall asleep in strange places. I’ve got pictures of me sleeping in odd places in dozens of countries around the world.



Honestly, I don’t care if people think napping is silly or a waste of time. I live my life according to a variety of simple principles, some of which are included below:

Life’s too short to drink crappy wine.

If you’ve got the money, why not?

Are twist ties really necessary?

When it comes to napping, my motto is simple: If you’re tired, sleep!

All this thinking and writing has worn me out. I think it’s time for a nap.

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