Good news! I’m not going to tell you to exercise!
Picture this: You have finished up your lunch and clean-up routines with the kids. Since we’re living in Plato’s Homeschool of the Forms, you read poetry at lunch time and your kids begged for you to let them use a particular poem in tomorrow’s copywork. And no one spilled water on your teacher’s guide for math. Now, you tuck the toddler into her bed for a nap, and you announce to your older children that it’s DQ Time (Down and Quiet). This routine has been in place for months now, so they immediately find a comfortable spot to lay down- either with a book or with nothing at all, and you officially clock out of mothering for 30 minutes.
How can you best use your break? An exercise video? A chapter of a novel? A bit of screen time?
Drop everything and lay down.
“But I have ten things I need to do RIGHT NOW while that toddler is asleep! I haven’t even done our math lesson yet!”
All ten things, and that math lesson, will go more smoothly if you allow yourself a short nap. The proof is in the research. Take the time to establish a family culture with afternoon down time corresponding to your natural circadian dip- that groggy period in the afternoon that most everyone goes through.
Study after study indicates the benefits of napping for healthy adults*. We have all told a friend to lie down while the baby is sleeping, but the truth is, napping remains beneficial long after we have left the newborn survival stage of parenting. The problem is, after leaving the newborn survival stage of parenting, a mother often times finds herself with small children in the house. But getting those small children into a routine that allows you to have 30 minutes of true downtime will reap huge benefits in your health and in your mothering.
Let me build a case for napping for you:
Nap studies show that a 10-30 minute nap:
- Increased accuracy
- Increased vigor
- Decreased fatigue
- Decreased lethargy
- Decreased perceived sleepiness
- Decreased reaction time
- Decreased confusion
- Increased heart health
-all in otherwise healthy adults. The benefits in the sleep deprived adult *cough* moms *cough* are even greater.
What you need to know:
- Shorter is better. A nap of less than 30 minutes will leave you feeling refreshed, both physically and cognitively. A longer nap will give you the same benefits, but with a big obstacle to overcome first: sleep inertia. Sleep inertia is the groggy, clumsy feeling that comes from being woken suddenly out of a deep sleep. A short nap keeps your body in a light state of sleep, so waking up is easy and the benefits are immediate. Set a 30 minute timer as soon as you get to your nap location.
- Clear the Slate. After installing your kids in their DQ nooks, take five minutes to clear your mind. Using a notebook or a scrap of paper, dump from your mind every to-do you are currently carrying around in your short term memory. What to thaw for dinner tonight, the birthday email you need to send, the item to be added to the grocery list, the fact that child B needs a quick review in multiplying decimals. You will not rest well if you are concerned you will forget something!
- Find your afternoon dip. Most people have a natural energy low some time after lunch. Keep your eye on the clock for a few days and note when your energy level drops. This is your ideal nap time.
- Napping should be a family affair. Make a 15-30 minute nap part of your daily routine. Increased focus and productivity, along with boosted mood, will make up for the short break.
- It’s the process that matters most. You may find you can’t get to sleep. Keep trying for a few weeks. Keep your rest to 30 minutes, spend the first 5 minutes clearing your brain, then just wait and see. Even a ten minute nap has cognitive benefits!
Intrigued, but not sure how this will look in your home? Read an honest account of how one mom fits a nap into her day– no matter what!
Don’t ask yourself how you’ll fit that nap in! The real question is, how can you afford not to?
* MILNER, C. E. and COTE, K. A. (2009), Benefits of napping in healthy adults: impact of nap length, time of day, age, and experience with napping. Journal of Sleep Research, 18: 272–281. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2869.2008.00718.x
* TAKAHASHI, M. (2003), The role of prescribed napping in sleep medicine. Sleep Medicine Reviews, Vol. 7, No. 3, pp 227±235doi:10.1053/smrv.2002.0241