It’s 3 a.m., Do You Know Where Your Writers Are?

So I’ve been told I stay up too late.

Is 3 a.m. really that late?  I mean, I don’t have to wake up until 6:30, and the Army always told me I only need four hours of sleep.  Okay, okay, I’m only getting three and a half, but I always sorta make up that last 30 minutes because I hit the snooze three times.  So I get my four hours.  And I function pretty well at work the next day.  So, sleep.  Pbbbbbbbttttttt!!!!

Wait, maybe the Army said they only have to GIVE me four hours of sleep.  Like during “surge” periods, like in the middle of an important mission.  At all the other times I’m supposed to be getting eight hours.  Or at least six.  Maybe that was it.  Oops.

So, sleep.  Not pbbbbttt.  Sleep is important, apparently.  A quick Google search will tell you that not getting enough sleep can lead to cardiovascular issues, arrhythmia, high blood pressure, and/or diabetes.  Yuck.  But how in the hell does a person work in six to eight hours of sleep?  Is that like, EVERY DAY?  I don’t have time for that!  We’re not talking about how my body periodically requires me to stand up, walk around the room, go to the bathroom, etc. etc. (which already pisses me off and takes up too much of my time).  We’re talking about six or even eight NON-PRODUCTIVE hours of each day.

No.  Screw you, Mr. Brain.  You can have four.  Maybe.

What do you expect, Mr. Brain?  You’re messing with my writing and art time.  And don’t even think about bringing up food and poop breaks again.  Just ‘cause I take a FEW MINUTES out of my day for that jerkface Mr. Stomach and that asshat Mr. Colon doesn’t mean I’m giving them any special treatment.  When I’m on a roll and the words are flowing and the imagination is working overtime, and suddenly my tummy or bowels gets mad at me, it only takes a minute to take care of things.  Whether it’s input or output.  And heck, I can even keep working on input sessions, especially if I have a straw.  Sometimes I even opt to take my laptop with me on output sessions.  My legs get really hot but that just tells me it’s time to finish up and get back to my desk.  But you want me to stop what I’m doing for HOURS at a time?  And possibly lose my motivation and train of thought?  Forget it.  You can have your sleep when I’m done with this chapter or this comic book panel.

I’m sure most readers of this blog are like me.  You have a lot to do, and 24 hours is so not enough time to pack it all in.  Lots of work in and around the house.  Favorite TV shows to keep up with or catch up on.  From 2008.  Games to not fall TOO far behind on, or the community will leave you in the dust.  A spouse or significant other that demands you send them a text message at least once a week.  KIDS.  And all their annoying care and feeding, not to mention their homework and school activities and “healthy psychological development.”  I don’t know about YOUR kids, but mine are gonna learn to be expert drywall patchers, they just don’t know it yet.  Oh yeah, and that even more annoying thing called “work/career” that gets in the way of everything else and takes up 1/3 of most of your limited days on this planet.  Am I pretty close to spot on?  If not, I’m a little too tired to care, so let’s just move on.

So in my “ever-increasingly at risk for the diabetes” world, when I finally feel like I’m done with my Dad-ily duties for the day, I then start on my writing and art projects.  The problem is, it’s usually 11 p.m. or midnight before that happens.  I tell myself I’m only going to write or draw for an hour.  Two hours max.  "At 1 a.m., I’ll hit the hay.  Woohoo, I might get five and a half hours of sleep tonight!“  Every night I’m at home and not wasting time spending quality time with my girlfriend, I do this.  Does it work?  Not at all.  And I end up with three to four hours of sleep.  But I manage.  You may be asking, "You do this every day?? And still function at work and write and draw as much as you do?  Someone who doesn’t drink coffee, doesn’t drink a lot of Dr. Pepper (anymore), doesn’t do energy drinks, doesn’t smoke, and doesn’t do yoga?  AND still stay healthy?  (I know I’m healthy, I just got my oil checked this week and the doc gave me a great report)  BUT HOW??”  I’ll tell you how.

Naps.  They aren’t just for kindergartners anymore.  In fact, they never were.

Naps are keeping my heart healthy, my blood pressure down, my arrhythmia in check, and the diabetes at bay.  My blood pressure has never been high, in fact it was 120 over 80 right on the nose just a few days ago.  My cholesterol (at the same checkup) was lower than it’s been in 20 years: 180 overall, triglycerides at 141 and other numbers close to what I’m told they should be.  99% of all my numbers were “good to go”, as we say in the Army, despite me getting only three to five hours of sleep every night.  You know who else only got three to five hours of sleep every night?  Nikola Tesla.  Yeah, it should be no surprise the first book I published had the word “Tesla” in the title. 🙂

In Spain, napping is ingrained in the culture.  Everyone takes a siesta after lunch, they just work an extra hour or two at the end of the work day.  In Italy, businesses close from noon to 2 p.m., and public venues and churches even lock their doors so people can go home for a “riposo.”  In China (I’ve seen it in my many trips to Japan as well), workers will lay their heads down at their work stations and nap for an hour.  In Japan, if you lay you head down at your desk, you have obviously worked yourself to the point of exhaustion; this is considered “commitment to your job”.  Believe me, I’ve seen it first-hand.  And the CEO at Google, Inc. actually encourages naps to increase his employees’ productivity.  But in the rest of Corporate America, home of the most obese society on Earth, just try to take a nap in the middle of the day, you lazy ass.

I’m here to tell you, I’m walking proof that you’re not lazy if you take a nap.  

And you don’t need an hour.  You need 8 minutes.  Preferably 30.  If you take a nap for anywhere from 8 to 30 minutes, you’ll feel refreshed for hours.

Nap for 45 to 90 minutes, your blood pressure drops, your muscles relax, and you’ll feel more calm and less likely to indulge (by that I mean earn more rank on our famous obesity scale).  Just allow yourself an additional 15 minutes to wake up for full effect.

Nap for over 90 minutes (where you enter REM), and you boost creative problem solving, your brain retains more information, and your memory sharpens.

Sure, you can probably get all this from eight hours of sleep too.  For those of us being pulled in seventeen different directions every day and who are trying to fit ten pounds of awesome in a five-pound bag of FML, naps are pretty frickin’ cool.  They rank WAY up there in my bag ‘o tricks.  Without my nap, I often run into a brick wall at around 2 p.m.  But I don’t nap every day.  Sometimes I go for a mid-day run with a co-worker.  Sometimes I slam a Dr. Pepper.  But a nap is still my favorite.  Now you know my secret, and I’ve been doing it for years now.  But you may still ask, technically, logistically, HOW do you do it?

Well, my car’s front seat lays waaaay back, and that little bit of gas I spend idling with the A/C on in the summer (or the heat on in the winter) is just my small “insurance fee” for keeping the doctor away.  It’s a small price to pay to gain all that energy and maintain my health.  And if you can’t make it out to your car, if you only have ten minutes to spare, any safe haven will do.  And by “safe haven” I mean that bathroom way in the back that nobody uses.  It’s highly likely no one will bother you, they’re too embarrassed to do so.  If they do, it’s likely they’re concerned for your well-being.  Just tell them you had chimichangas last night, they’ll high-tail it outta there, and you’ll buy yourself an extra ten minutes. 🙂  Those are the best two options.  I wouldn’t recommend using your desk or work station, at least not until you can get your boss to buy off on the awesomesauce of increased efficiency that comes with a mid-day nap.

Bottom line: You want to be more productive?  Take a friggin siesta!  And spread the word!

– Rod and the Wordwraiths

PS – I got all this great info from a small Humana poster that some anonymous pro-napping angel at work puts up all around the office about twice a year that inevitably gets torn down by the management, the guys who still see naps in the same negative light as every other boss in America.  Besides the CEO at Google of course, which (if you need reminding) is one of the most successful companies in America, as well as reportedly one of best places to work on Earth.

Oh and that angel is me.  Shhh. 😉

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