The yellow couch. (Photo courtesy of Amy Barr)
I’m thinking about buying a new couch. The one we have has served us well for a decade or so, but the fabric is faded and the stuffing is mostly dead. Here’s the problem: When I mentioned my plan to my family, they pitched a collective fit. “Noooo,” they whined. “We love the yellow couch. It’s the nap spot.”
This couch is not particularly long or deep. Napping on it requires bending your knees or propping your feet up on an arm. Yet, when I brought up the possibility of replacing it, you would’ve thought I suggested murdering Grandma.
As far as nap spots go, the yellow couch isn’t my top choice. It’s in a high traffic, sometimes noisy location. You’re on display to anyone traveling from kitchen to bathroom, and, depending on which end you rest your head, your ears could be next to a giant speaker. But my husband and sons love it, so for now I’ve capitulated. The yellow couch stays.
Apparently people are pretty idiosyncratic about nap preferences. Some need silence and darkness. Others, like my husband, don’t like to miss out on any action, even while unconscious. I swear I’ve seen him sleeping with one eye open in case something interesting happens while he’s down.
In my circle of friends, the award for best adult napper goes to my pal, J.P. He too is a fan of the yellow couch but can drop off anywhere and sleep through anything. I’ve seen him snore through a rager; I’ve watched a flight attendant ram his elbow with her drink cart and not disturb his REM cycle in the least.
My favorite nap scenario is this: It’s summer, upstate. I’m in my bedroom with all six windows open. Bees buzz, birds tweet, my pants are off.
Personally, I’m much more particular about where and how I doze. My favorite nap scenario is this: It’s summer, upstate. I’m in my bedroom with all six windows open. Bees buzz, birds tweet, my pants are off. I hear bites of conversation and the occasional splash from the pool, sounds that reassure me that everyone – especially my children – is safe and happy. There’s a slight breeze that requires the lightest of blankets. The time and space are all about comfort, both psychic and physical.
Besides my bedroom and the yellow couch, there are other prime napping spots at my house. Most summer visitors make a beeline for one of two hammocks (one hangs in a sunny spot, the other swings in the shade). Other guests opt for a lounger by the pool so they can multitask: tan and sleep. Scoring the doublewide chaise is like scoring Beyoncé tickets online – you need to be quick and persistent. Last summer, a giant inflatable swan and equally mammoth inflatable pretzel appeared in our pool. The swan is perfect for dry dozing as it holds its passenger’s entire body above water. The pretzel is designed for nappers who enjoy a butt-soaking snooze, thereby staying cool even as they float beneath the sun.
No matter where you like to nap, there is plenty of science to back up the notion that napping is good for us. Beyond giving our bodies and minds a chance to relax and recharge, napping boosts creativity and productivity and heightens sensory perception. We actually see and hear better after a 20-minute catnap. Studies show napping also reduces the risk of heart disease.
Those benefits are excellent reasons to fit a nap into your day, but they’re not why napping has become so vital in my life. For me, getting ready for bed at night is like prepping for combat. There’s a multi-step regimen I must adhere to before my battle for sleep begins. I’ve got to fetch a glass of water to place on my night table and set up my sleep meds. I must remember to put in my retainer and charge my Kindle for pre-dawn reading. I need to lay out my gym clothes, plug in my phone and double check the front door to make sure it’s locked. As an insomniac, I do all of this knowing that no matter how well I set myself up for sleep success, many nights, I will fail in my mission. On those nights, my bed feels more like a prison than an oasis.
But while going to bed for the night is fraught with anxiety, taking naps is beautifully benign. Napping is about closing my eyes and seeing what happens. Maybe I’ll sleep or maybe I’ll daydream, or perhaps I’ll find that elusive place between consciousness and unconsciousness and float there for a bit. There’s no pressure, no clock ticking away the hours until dawn. Naps are ripe with possibility.
So I get why the yellow couch is more than just a couch. I think I’ll just restuff the cushions and let the world dream on.