For myself, and undoubtedly for many of my fellow pupils as well, the nap is an absolutely essential part of college life. It’s no secret that the College Experience is famous for often subjecting its partakers to very limited hours of sleep, as a result of work, social life, and Kendrick Lamar dropping surprise albums at midnight, among other things, and, sadly, it will not always be the case (though sometimes it will be!) that your classes will all start at 3 PM, making it so that your bedtime is irrelevant when you can sleep until noon. No, sometimes you’re up until 1:30 working and you’ve got to wake up for a 9:00 class the next day. That sucks, but that’s just how it is. The nap, though, is the silver lining to the sleep-deprived misery that can sometimes overwhelm the university student’s life. If executed properly, a nap provides boundless effective energy without a crash, refreshes, revives and breathes life back into the soul. Naps are not just naps. Naps are works of art, beautiful loopholes in mental programming that allow for unparalleled levels of success.
But first, my appeal to ethos: not to toot my own horn or anything, but I’m what you might call a veritable Neruda of Napping, the Shostakovich of Snoozing, the Dante of Dozing. I’ve been napping consistently since I was born (seriously, ask my mom), and though to my parents and peers it may have just seemed like I was lazy and needed beauty sleep, all of my napping experience was really necessary to perfect a series of various nap styles, each of which effectively accomplishes a very specific task. And before I share my secrets with you, allow me to qualify my whole piece here by stating that which type of napping works varies incredibly from person to person. Know that naps are an individual art, as specific to the person as a fingerprint. Practice, try new things, and learn how to best harness your inner napper.
I essentially have three styles of napping, the simplest of which is the traditional nap that lasts an hour and a half or longer, depending on how much free time I have. This nap really just involves going to sleep at some point in the afternoon and waking up after at least one REM cycle, each of which takes approximately an hour and a half, hence the length of this nap. It’s very easy to master and very helpful when you just really feel high-level exhausted and need to hit the reset button on your day.
My other two napping styles, though, are a bit more nuanced and tricky to pull off. The shorter of the two, and my personal favorite style of nap, is the 12-minute power play. This is exactly what it sounds like: prepare for a nap as you normally would, but set an alarm for 12 minutes later (in reality I will give myself as much as 15 minutes sometimes if I feel like I’ve earned it, but 12 really is a sweet spot). The point of this nap is not to fall asleep or enter a REM cycle, but rather to simply doze and relax and turn yourself on low-power mode for a bit. If you do it properly, you wake up after 12 minutes feeling ridiculously refreshed, no lie. JFK himself was said to have been a big fan of the miniature nap and Salvador Dali used them to come up with ideas for his paintings, so you know it’s good.
Of course, a lot of people find that they have to overcome some mental roadblocks with regard to this nap, the most obvious of which is that this is not a nap for the snooze button type. In order for this nap to work, as soon as the alarm goes off, you must get out of bed. It stinks for about 15 seconds, but if you can push through those without letting yourself fall back asleep, you’re golden. If you do fall back asleep after a 12-minute nap, though, chances are high that you will actually enter sleep as opposed to just skimming the surface of it, and by doing so you’ve signed a deal with the grogginess devil. Self-discipline is what it’s all about here.
The second mental roadblock is that many people feel as though if they know they can only sleep for 12 minutes, they’ll be so paranoid about the fact that they have to wake up so soon after going to sleep that they won’t be able to get out of their own heads and relax. This is a very real sensation, and it honestly can only be beaten with practice. As soon as your brain understands what’s actually going on in a 12-minute nap, you can stop worrying and start relaxing and harnessing the nap’s full potential. I even have gotten to the point where my brain will wake me up smoothly at the 11-minute mark, meaning I don’t even need to use an alarm, and that’s a beautiful thing.
The second atypical nap I sometimes indulge in is the 20-minute zone out. This nap is very dangerous because if you’re more tired than you think you are you risk falling deeper into sleep than you may have planned, so proceed with caution. The way I nap in this manner is as follows: I don’t set an alarm, but instead put on some music in the background that’s not loud enough to be distracting, but loud enough to keep me mentally aware of its existence. I usually put it at slightly above the volume of my alarm’s radio. Then, with the lights on in my room, I lay down and close my eyes and listen to the radio, allowing myself to zone in and out, without ever fully falling asleep because of the lights and the radio in the background. This nap isn’t refreshing and energizing like the 12-minute nap is, but it is extremely relaxing and pleasant. Like I said above, though, you need to make certain that you won’t fall asleep. The worst experience in the world is entering one of these naps expecting to relax for 20-30 minutes and waking up 3 hours later with the lights on and the radio playing. Very disorienting. This nap certainly takes the most mental discipline to pull off, but if it’s done right it’s quite nice.
Some additional tried-and-true tips on napping, for the interested: I have a hard limit on nap start times of 7:00 PM. Napping after that seriously increases the risk of actually falling asleep and waking up disoriented and very gross-feeling at 4 in the morning. In fact, I usually only nap when there is some level of natural light that I can get through my window, because waking up from a nap in the darkness feels really weird. Another fun trick is the extra-powerful 12-minute nap, which is accomplished by consuming some form of caffeine before taking a 12-minute nap. What happens is, because caffeine takes about 10 minutes to start working in the body, you wake up from your 12-minute nap feeling incredibly energized. I like to do this with Red Bull or some drink that can be consumed quickly (I like to take my time with coffee), so that the caffeine doesn’t hit before I’m ready.
Maybe the key thing to note here, if you’re a prospective student, is that one of the most exciting things about college is the fact that you can even take naps at all. I remember in high school not being able to find an adequate place to take a nap during the day until senior year, and that was a very sad thing, because there were thousands of times when I wished I could have napped back then but wasn’t able to. So keep it mind and get excited! One of the most poignant feelings of college life, especially as a freshman, is the astoundingly fun feeling of being able to do whatever you want, whenever you want, or, as I interpreted it, the feeling of being able to nap freely and beautifully.