Nap Shame. I’ve got it. Do you?

by julie on February 13, 2016

In this short audio clip, I explore my feelings of shame and embarrassment around taking a nap at work. (Also available here)

Do you have nap shame or are you an empowered napper? I want to hear your thoughts!

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Mali Einen February 13, 2016 at 6:46 pm

Nap Shame..
Yes I’ve got it too!
I’ve now had narcolepsy for over 30 years and still feel that moment of shame in the pit of my stomach when I know I need a nap ..that shame can be so powerful that too often I push the nap out further ..making my self less productive and well..before giving in. Years ago I let that shame prevent me from napping at the expense of my career – thinking that others might judge that I wasn’t pulling my weight. Yet, if I had looked around there are so many people who “waste” so much time in their day (personal phone calls, chit chat in the office, extended break times, primping in the restroom) compared to the time that I allow myself for a nap.

I’m better now at taking the naps.. but that shame is there every time.. not ashamed that I need the naps ..they are actually “my super power” ..they make me more clear, productive, pleasant.. but shame at what others may think.

I continue to “work” everyday at giving my self the permission to nap.

Thank you Julie for your post.. I think if we talk about this more .. perhaps can get better!!

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julie February 15, 2016 at 4:10 am

Mali, I think you hit the nail on the head:

“Not ashamed that I need the naps … but shame at what others may think.”

This is it for me too!

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Michael Hennessey February 13, 2016 at 7:10 pm

Hi Julie,
I am 66 with nap shame and empowered.

By empowered I mean I take my naps everyday even though it embarresses me.
I hate it when people call and wake me up. They immediately apologize and I have to tell them ” don’t worry about it I am always asleep either upright or laying down.
Of course there are those people manly family who say ” If you would just push yourself like everyone else, you would not need the naps.” Or it must be nice to take a nap when ever you feel like it..
I was diagnosed in 1991 after a 3 car pile up. But I have been complaining to doctors since grade school. My parents used to say give Michael a tree, he will climb it and go to sleep in the branches.
Might be of interest to you. I Narcolepsy/Cataplexy, Central Sleep Apnea and Combat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. They all originate from the same part of the brain.
Thank You for your great work.

A thought you could make a 15 minute power nap available for everyone at work which would cover your nap and probably increase production in the office.

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julie February 15, 2016 at 4:15 am

Michael – this is such a powerful line: “I am 66 with nap shame and empowered. By empowered I mean I take my naps everyday even though it embarrasses me.” Sounds similar to what Mali responded too. This is so great that we are sharing. Sending wakefulness and big smiles your way, Julie

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Dorothylou Sands February 14, 2016 at 2:47 am

I never thought about being ashamed when taking a nap. People would ask me how I managed to sleep for 10 or 15 min. They would sleep all afternoon. My embarressement came when people would walk in to my office an find me sleeping. Most people that knew me knew that happened occasionally and once I was awaken I went on as if I had not been asleep. I have slept in church during the sermon for almost 70 years. It is always amazing to me the Sunday’s I stay awake during the entire sermon. I only take a nap if I have to drive some distance. If I get sleepy and haven’t taken a nap I take my medication, but find getting out of the car to get my pills I am awake by the time I take the pill.

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julie February 15, 2016 at 4:14 am

Thank you for sharing your experience, Dorothylou! You’re an amazing woman and role model to me.

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Rachel Bancroft February 15, 2016 at 3:05 am

Julie,
Thanks so much for bringing up this topic. My 12-year-old daughter and I both have narcolepsy. I encourage her to be aware of her needs, advocate for herself and take her essential daily naps.

Her response about nap shame:
“I’ve explained narcolepsy to most of my friends, and they’re all pretty supportive of me, but it still feels weird every time I have to take a nap in public.”

I have become more open about narcolepsy and naps with my family and friends only in the past few years. Partly because I didn’t know what was causing my fatigue and partly because I was so ashamed of needing naps. My family is now supportive of my need to nap, but I always feel some shame when I nap around them because our family takes pride in being hard-working, buck up-and-don’t-complain type of people. My dad still thinks naps are for unproductive and lazy people.
When I tell my friends about my need to nap, I’m always amazed at how many of them say they are jealous. Especially those that are mothers. There seems to be this underlying competition of who can be the most worn out, the most stressed and the busiest. I usually tell them to just take a nap already. 🙂

Rachel & Emma

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julie February 15, 2016 at 4:13 am

Thank you so much for sharing your perspectives, Rachel and Emma. It sounds like we are all working through the layers of self-guilt and outside pressures. I’m so glad we are having this discussion! 🙂

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Samuel Andrus February 18, 2016 at 4:11 am

I am 17 years old and have been struggling with narcolepsy since the 4th grade. I used to have to go to the school nurse to pop some nuvigil after lunch and I was always so embarrassed about telling people why I had to take medicine. For the first few years after I was diagnosed I could hardly bring myself to tell people that I had narcolepsy. Sometimes I would almost start to cry. Everything was embarrassing about it. I guess it didn’t help that I was only a young boy who was still learning what my narcolepsy was but it still felt so embarrassing to admit that I was different. I didn’t want to be different or feel different.
As I have matured and learned about how I can best deal with my narcolepsy, much has changed. I now have a class period of the day at school where I take a nap. I have an air mattress and blanket in a secluded quite room where I take a much needed daily nap. Although I still fall asleep in a few of my other classes almost every day, I am able to maintain good grades with the aid of accomadations from the teachers.

But most importantly: I am completely open and accepting of my narcolepsy. I do not hesitate to tell anyone that I meet about my condition. All of my friends know the details of my narcolepsy. We joke about it often and I really laugh. My friends are fascinated by the stories that I tell them of my lucid dreams and occasional hallucinations. They help and encourage me to stay awake in my classes nudging me when I nod off, and although this is usually futile because I will just fall asleep again, it is valuable support that shows that they care about me. It is still very frustrating when I fall asleep while trying to learn or taking a test, but I no longer shame in taking a needed nap.

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Beth February 27, 2016 at 6:34 pm

Hi, Julie,

I don’t have narcolepsy, but our situations are somewhat similar. I have a Circadian Rhythm Disorder (CRD) and can’t be trusted to wake up in time for (morning) appointments. I’m often either late or I sleep clear through. I’m always tired, but it’s better now, after retirement, as my “sleep debt” is lessened.

The biggest difference between before and after diagnosis is having learned that I am NOT ALONE. Learning that there is such a disorder and “meeting” hundreds of others via the Internet has changed my life, though I’m not entirely rid of the guilt and shame.

Many people in my life TRY to understand and accept. It’s usually a bit stilted with some doubt remaining. My remarkable dentist truly accepts; his office calls me an hour and a half before appointments and never belittles. Why can’t everyone be like them?

We have an organization now, Circadian Sleep Disorders Network ( csd-n.org ), but haven’t (yet) managed to spread the word as you have done. You are an inspiration! Thank you.

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Jennifer March 1, 2016 at 3:31 am

I’m going to have to bookmark this site – I’ve been going to a sleep doctor for about 14 months now, and after that long of me insisting I’m abnormally tired, only to be repeatedly informed that because I’m a parent, a teacher, and a writer, of course I’m tired…I’m finally receiving a second sleep study about a week from now, this time to confirm or deny a diagnosis of narcolepsy.

When my sleep doctor first suggested the idea to me, I of course immediately considered the Hollywood idea of narcolepsy (though my mental health counselor husband insisted I PLEASE read up on it, as he was convinced that was my issue). While I initially rejected the idea, my doctor handed me a pamphlet, stating: “I’m not saying with 100% certainty you have this, but I’m saying you need to know everything this pamphlet says.” So, I read the darn thing, and…yeah. All these elements of my sleep that I thought everyone experienced, well…who knew? I thought EVERYONE started dreaming before falling asleep. I thought EVERYONE had what were clearly visual hallucinations, especially when tired or when woken mid-sleep. I thought everyone had such exhaustion so strong that they wanted to cry because of difficulty functioning due to tiredness (that last one, people have been trying to convince me of that for years – “everyone’s tired” – except, no).

So, I’m getting this study. And if I end up without a diagnosis of narcolepsy, I’ll be surprised.

And I have a stupid fear. A really stupid fear. I’m a writer. 99% of my fiction novels, I’ve dreamed, beginning to end. If my REM is delayed, and I dream less, I’ll have fewer ideas to write about. Yeah, I know…that should be the least of my concerns.

Now, to figure out how to accept “prescribed” naps when I’m a full time teacher, part time writer, and full time mommy of two toddlers…

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