How my friends and I get our daytime zzzs
Babies and toddlers have it all figured out. A book, a song or two, maybe a back rub or a bottle of milk, and boom. Off they go into a nice, neat nap.
All of us who are a wee bit older like to nap, too, now that our days are probably no longer packed with meetings, bosses and expectations. But how do we induce that mid-day sleep?
In my case, the pathway is very simple and very reliable. Golf on television.
To those who play and adore that game, my apologies. There’s nothing wrong with breathing all that fresh air, hunting in the woods for mis-hit balls that you’ll never find, and cursing the fates.
But golf on TV? Instant snooze.
I click on the set. There’s some guy in a very colorful polo shirt walking around. Then he walks around some more. Then he thinks about hitting his ball. Then he thinks some more about hitting his ball.
By the time he actually unfurls a swing, I am an hour older.
And guess what? As I rub the cobwebs out of my eyes, there’s the same guy on the screen, still walking around, and walking around some more. It’s amazing that he isn’t napping, too.
But I am not the only elderly soul who has a surefire method for achieving zzzs. As it happens, many of my agemates do, too.
I’ve performed an unofficial poll. Here are some of the results:
One woman lies down and picks up a cheap romance novel. “The crummier the better,” she tells me. By the time the passion-addled lovebirds are fastening their pulsating lips together, this woman is gone.
Another woman believes in the One Cookie Theory. As she lies down, she will munch on a single occupant of her cookie jar. Never two. Always one. “And it has to be chocolate chip,” she says.
A college classmate weighs only five pounds more than he did the day we graduated. (I try not to hate him.) His secret? Regular exercise, usually jogging.
“But after I jog,” he says, “it’s as if my entire body says to me, ‘Time for a little sleep, old man.’” Nodding off usually follows within five minutes, he reports.
A friend of many years is much more direct and purposeful. He has invested in one of those machines that plays soft background music, usually performed on violins. “No one can possibly stay awake through that,” he says. He never does.
Then there’s the question of what to wear and whether to cover.
A former colleague says he is unable to nap if he doesn’t wear a full set of pajamas and pull a blanket over himself. “As long as I do both of those, I’m in Dreamland, baby,” he writes.
Another former colleague says just the opposite. “Maybe I had an unusual experience in the womb,” he tells me by email. “But I feel comfortable, coddled, swaddled and ready to nap only if I’m stark naked.”
Even in the winter?
“Even in the winter.”
Then there are those who (unlike this author) have embraced the internet in all its variety and wonder.
They lie down. They click around. They find an online sleep coach.
This is usually someone with all the subtlety of a Marine drill instructor. “Relax!” this bossy boss will instruct, in a very sharp tone. “Listen to your breath! Listen to your heartbeat!”
I don’t know about you, but I’d be so tense after being ordered not to be tense that I’d never be able to sleep. Yet this internet addict swears by it.
Yes, some people will take a nip or two of alcohol if they want to nap. Some will take a pill. Some will take a hot bath. Some will get a massage.
But one friend has come up with a very clever and (he says) very successful method.
He tees up music from the 1940s.
“The forties are when I began,” says this guy, who is bearing down on his 80th birthday. “Whenever I listen to Glenn Miller or Tommy Dorsey, I am back in my childhood home. My mother is fixing dinner in the kitchen. My no-good brother is working on his butterfly collection. My father will be home from work any minute.
“For me, sleep is about security. For me, the 1940s were about security.”
Well, friend, I’ve tried your method. But neither Miller nor Dorsey did the trick for me.
What did? Well, I reached for the TV remote, found a golf tournament and…
Bob Levey is a national award-winning columnist.