By Dave Balch
Like many people, I used to think that taking a nap in the middle of the day was the same as being lazy, and lazy was a very bad thing to be. I’m not even sure where I got that impression; maybe I just assumed it because of the work ethic that I developed.
The point is that when I got sleepy during the day I would fight it. I’d sit there with my eyes half-closed, staring at the computer screen or document or whatever I was working on, unable to focus my eyes or think clearly. Is this a good way to be a caregiver? Do you think I was being effective? Was that the best use of my time? Was I making smart decisions about/for/on behalf of my patient and keeping her safe? NO, NO, NO, and NO!
It was my wife who straightened me out on this one. She has always enjoyed a good nap; sometimes 10 minutes, sometimes an hour. It doesn’t matter how long the nap is, as long as it does its job, which is to rejuvenate. She works hard in the morning and then, if and only if she gets tired, she takes a nap, then continues to work hard afterward. It makes perfect sense to her, and now it does to me too!
I’ve changed my ways. Now, when my eyes are unable to focus and start closing on their own, I get up, go to the couch, and take a snooze. In 10 minutes I am as good as new. If that sounds lazy to you, think of it this way: I’ve invested 10 minutes in order to be the best caregiver I can be, not to mention to save the afternoon. Suddenly, it makes sense.
But, you may say, what about the patient? Who will watch her while I nap? That’s a good question. If you have children old enough for the responsibility, tell them to pay attention and to wake you if necessary; the only decision they need to make is whether or not to awaken you. Another solution would be to take your nap in the same room as the patient, so if she stirs it will wake you. Be creative and solve this problem, because this is important. What could be more important than being alert and ready to handle whatever comes up?
The bottom line: if you’re tired, take a nap! There is a certain satisfaction you get when you allow yourself the pleasure of a nap, and there are sound and practical reasons for doing so: you will be more alert, more efficient, and less likely to make mistakes. And knowing that you have this option will reduce your stress as well.
Do you ignore your body when you have to use the bathroom? Of course not! Don’t ignore your body when it needs a short rest. Thinking that you “shouldn’t need a nap” is not going to make your fatigue go away.
Take a nap if you need to. It feels good, and it’s a wise investment of time.