The Nana Nap

The pure and magic indulgence that is the post run nap.

I am a very active person who does not need much sleep and functions quite happily on about 6 – 7 hours a night. My mother could never get me to go down and settle for a nap as a baby and young child and especially not once I found my feet and was off and running. I can cope with long periods without sleep, which is just as well really given my ultra-running habit. Sixty-three hours with no sleep is the record so far and that was through this year’s West Highland Way race weekend (7am Friday – 10 pm Sunday). Quite apart from the events I suffer periodically from chronic bouts of insomnia too which date back to a particularly stressful period in my life some 12 or 13 years ago.

The ‘nana nap’, power nap or ‘disco nap’ as my youngest daughter calls it is not something that would naturally be associated with me, but oh, how I have come to love the occasional post run nana nap. The conditions have to be just right and I have worked out that the optimum conditions are post long run on a Saturday when there is actually no fixed timetable or agenda for the day other than my run.

Run over, I hydrate and replace burned calories. Then I draw a good hot bath, throw in some Epsom salts to ease my muscles and also add some bath oil or bath foam. I get a book or magazine and some music then clamber in for a soak and a read. Sometimes there is a top up of hot water as it starts to cool down. I do not emerge until all fingers and toes have turned to prunes. Body lotion applied and big soft bath sheet wrapped round me I head for the bedroom.

The next level of indulgence is being able, if I choose, to put on my ‘PJs’ or lounging around clothes knowing that there is no need or compulsion to get fully dressed, knowing that there is nothing else I particularly need to do for the rest of the day. Our bedroom is especially conducive for the nana nap. It is south facing with a huge bay window and so a light and airy room. We have a down duvet and pillows. I stretch out on the bed propped up with the pillows and cushions, fed, clean and cosy. The book or magazine and maybe the tablet are beside me. I will just take another half hour of relaxation.

Sometimes I do simply read for half an hour or so before getting up and going off to find something to do. Then there are those magical days when I simply and naturally drift off to sleep for a short while, generally for about twenty minutes, sometime half an hour and on rare occasions an hour. I wake feeling refreshed and relaxed and with a touch of guilt, but good guilt, that sense of guilty pleasure. A guilty pleasure that has been earned so why not.

As runners we know that sleep is important. It helps our bodies recover and repair. Over the last year Nairn from Glasgow University School of Life Sciences who works with me and advises, has constantly been telling me that I need more sleep and must take more sleep, but that is something I do struggle with. I never need to set an alarm, I automatically wake up and so taking a ‘long lie’, grabbing some extra z’s is just not an option for me. Once I am awake, I am awake and there is no return to slumber.

The nana nap is therefore something that I need to allow myself to indulge in and cultivate. It is perhaps not quite the guilty pleasure it first appears, and the benefits to body and soul give it a legitimacy. One thing for sure, it could come in most useful when I undertake the Global Odyssey next year and will need to be able to try and grab sleep whenever an opportunity to do so presents itself.