I don't know why it's taken me so long to hear of this and maybe some people reading now already practice this technique, but yesterday morning on NPR I heard something that I told myself I need to try.
It's the nappuccino.
You could also call it "the coffee nap".
As I've mentioned here before, my usual time to write is at night. On weekdays, I rise at about 6:30 and then go through the work day before coming home to eat and chat and so forth. By the time I get to work writing, it's about 10:30 or even 11. I'll write for two or two and a half hours and go to bed around 1:30. Now what made this work for years was my ability to nap in the 10 to 11 o'clock time range, then rise, make coffee, and work. But over the past few months, I've been finding that rising out of bed from this nap has become more and more difficult. At first I thought that maybe I'm getting too old to do the nap and rise thing. It was just becoming too draining. I'd find myself waking from my nap when my alarm goes off, turning off the alarm, and then falling right back to sleep. Or I would turn off the alarm and sort of doze on and off for a good while before arising, not getting to my laptop till around 11:30 or midnight, which left me precious little time to work. I got worried. The nap has long been an essential part of my writing routine, and writing without the nap is definitely not productive: the brain just does not operate well at 11 at night when you've been up since 6:30 in the morning. I do sometimes try to go to sleep early and write first thing in the morning, but that means getting up around 4 on weekdays, which doesn't suit me. What to do?
I gave the whole matter some thought and came to the conclusion that over time I've gotten too slack in my nap discipline. I went from taking 25 minute night time naps to naps of 45 minutes. Somehow I got to thinking that a longer nap would more fully refresh me, forgetting that too long a nap puts me into a deeper sleep than necessary. The deeper the sleep, the harder it is to wake up. So, I decided, I'd have to make a real effort to get back to the briefer nap, and just as I was thinking along these lines, I heard the NPR piece about techniques to "catch up" on sleep. Not getting enough sleep on a regular basis, having too much you need (or want) to do - these are common problems for many nowadays, no doubt about that.
So anyway, napping, or more specifically, the nappuccino. How could I not have known about this?
It's a simple procedure:
1) Just before I'm ready for my nap, I drink a cup of freshly brewed coffee.
2) I lay down in my quiet dark room and set the alarm for 25 minutes. (Science has definitely shown that 10-20 minutes is the optimal amount of time for napping. More than that, and you tend to wake up, as I've discovered, groggy. Then it takes some time to get to an alert state of mind.)
3) You sleep. (You're tired and caffeine takes about 20-25 minutes to take effect in the body, so falling asleep should not be difficult.)
4) The alarm goes off and you wake up. You're quite refreshed. The nap has allowed your brain to rest, and the caffeine is just kicking in, giving an extra boost.
5) Time to work.
I'm writing this now after a coffee nap. It's late. I went to bed feeling tired and awoke feeling alert. So I'm off to a good start with this technique, and I'm hoping it helps me get back on track with energetic late-night writing. Obviously, I need to do this consistently for a few months to see if it works long term, but I love the idea and I'm going to give it a shot.
The nappuccino: glad I discovered it. If in the future I make any interesting findings about its effects, positive or negative, I'll report back.