Tuesday, November 1, 2011


The Best Nap

Turns out if you're falling asleep at the wheel, you shouldn't choose between a coffee or a nap. No, the best solution is to pull over, get a cup of coffee, drink it way too fast, burn your mouth probably, "comfortably" recline in the drivers seat and immediately fall asleep for exactly 15 minutes before the caffeine kicks in at 20. Or you could stay home?

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Ok, this research has been around at least since I was in college (when dinos ruled the earth, etc.). And no one did it then, either, because it just seems impractical and tricky.


It is TRUE. My boyfriend does this nap trick when he has to teach an early class and then later that day work at the bar until 5 am.


The problem with trying to fall asleep quickly is that it turns what ought to be a relaxing, peaceful process into a RACE AGAINST TIME. A race in which your brain performs periodic sweeps of itself - "Are we asleep yet? No, we were close, but asking ourself this question rebooted the system. Try again later!"


@melis YES. THIS IS ME, CONSTANTLY. Like on Mondays when I have to wake up for 6 AM - Sunday night I get into bed at 10 with this determined look on my face and my softest pajamas all "you WILL fall asleep RIGHT NOW. You HAVE to. It's THE ONLY WAY." And then of course, it doesn't happen until 1 in the morning. "Just relax. Stop thinking. It'll happen. Soon. I promise!"


@melis It's different with napping, though! That is why naps are so dangerous . . .


@Lucienne Yeah, I find it totally different with napping too. At night time I have that problem, but when napping (especially at work in a secret location, shhhh), I fall asleep immediately.


@melis This is definitely the problem with it. But on the other hand, it prevents the "oh dear I just napped for two hours and now it is dark outside and I AM A FAILURE AT EVERYTHING AND I WILL NEVER BE HAPPY AGAIN" naps.

... maybe other people don't have those, but naps >20 minutes make my brain CRY.


@LittleMousling I find I have about 20 minute cycles. So a 20 minute nap is perfection. A 40 minute nap is fine. An hour nap leaves me completely disoriented and incapable of functioning like a normal human.

I actually use the coffee trick a lot. I find sometimes coffee makes me sleepy? Or maybe it's just that I drink it when I'm sleepy, and it's soothing. Then I nap (or sometimes just lying in a dark, quite space and zoning out without actually sleeping is just as good) and the coffee wakes me up at an appropriate brain time, without fuzziness or tears.


@Craftastrophies Sorry for the dumb question, but why would an hour nap not work? Isn't it just adding another cycle onto your 40 minute nap?


@thenotestaken Not a dumb question, it was a dumb statement on my part. I think maybe I was thinking that when I set my alarm for an hour, it's always awful? I wonder how long it takes me to fall asleep. Or perhaps there is a second, deeper, sleep cycle that I fall into? Is that a thing?


A nap in the front seat of a manual-shift Ford Ranger in the parking lot of a rural Pennsylvania truck stop beats dying every time!


@atipofthehat Yeah, until Hook-hand shows up and totally GUTS you. (<- Why I don't drive anywhere.)

Tuna Surprise

@atipofthehat - I used to drive a manual Ford Ranger! With bucket seats that didn't recline, no AC and no cupholders. Good times were had.

In case people are wondering, the answer is always to buy sunflower seeds. I challenge anyone to fall asleep while eating/
shelling/ disposing of shells. Impossible.


@Tuna Surprise

Mine was white, so I could use appliance touch-up paint to smooth over any little chips!

But it was no good for the newborn baby, so I sold it, and now it's in Guinea, Africa!



It was worth the risk to awaken next morning to the knowledge that truckers are careening down the highways while popping popcorn, making perfect waffles, operating crock-pots, and ladling hush-puppies out of deep fryers--at least to judge by the cigarette-lighter-powered appliances for sale at the truck stop among the chrome fittings and Confederate mudflaps.


i'm a chronic get-sleepy-behind-the-wheel kind of driver. i think its my heated seats...but i LOVE my heated seats. This caffeine plus quick cat nap does the trick. But you have to be really, really tired slash sleep deprived.


@depaysee: I'm sure heated seats are a delight in the colder climates. But I rented a car here in SF one time and was upgraded to a Cadillac Seville (!). I turned on the heated driver's seat and within seconds felt like I'd just crapped my pants. Not a fan...


@ejcsanfran Maybe you just have a particularly warm butt? Because I have heated seats, and they make me feel so COZY in the car. I turn them on when it drops below 60.


@thebestjasmine: I have been told that my ass is hot...

Actually, that's not true. (sad trombone)


I was once having to follow a tow truck that was towing my friends car. We started off in the middle of nowhere and there was no cell reception and I didn't understand where they were going, so I *had* to follow them or else we could get permanently separated. Because of this whole car breaking down ordeal I was operating on zero sleep by 10am when the tow truck came. I've never been so afraid I was going to pass out at the wheel, and I had no coffee! The only thing that got me through that 2 hour trip was slapping myself hard enough to bring tears and singing along with Neutral Milk Hotel at the top of my lungs. So, nap and coffee is probably better but that's not a bad alternative in my experience.


@TreatYoSelf Please tell me that your username is a reference to the amazing Parks and Rec episode from the other week.


I'm in driving school right now (lol I'm like 22 oops) and this is what I learnt a few weeks ago. I am fairly confident that I will never be able to fall asleep that fast, then immediately wake up and continue driving. Knowing me, I'm more likely to take half an hour to fall asleep because I'd be worried about serial killers attacking me while I'm unconscious in my car, then finally falling asleep for about twelve minutes and wake up with my mascara smudged across my face and a spot of drool on the windowsill.

sarah girl

My mom used to make a bunch of late-night drives when she was younger (not sure why), and she maintains that the best place to take car naps is in the parking lot of auto repair shops. Nothing going on there late at night, the cars are already broken so people aren't gonna try to steal them...

The alternate answer is to figure out where the truckers are napping and tag along there. They'll all be passed out, too, leaving no one to even care about messing with you!


@Sarah H. I would say don't sleep near the truckers. seriously...they have a crazy code system and my friend got...um...oddly propositioned (via a demonstrative communication with wheat grass)by taking a nap near the trucks (it was dark and he figured, eh...why not). not saying that all truckers do this or it will happen to you if you sleep near their area, but i would advise against it.


@depaysee Wait, what did the trucker do with the wheat grass? Just what was he demonstrating? Man, that is creative. I've only ever been propositioned via corn stalk.


@paperbuttons he was stroking the wheat grass in an ever so suggestive way. my friend froze and did nothing...which then prompted the driver to be less passive and go straight up to my friends window and ask if he wanted to...hang out with some long blades of wheat grass. my friend declined and drove away. But he was awakened and able to drive home safely...so that's good, right?


This is good to know - I'm forwarding to my driver.

Cory #2

I tried this this morning! Except instead of while driving, I did it while trying to wake up? Like, got up, drank a cup of coffee and tried to lay down for fifteen minutes? But then I fell asleep for an hour...or more. And then I rolled into work around 11:45. This is why I'll never be a grown up.


I have terrible issues with ALMOST falling asleep while driving. I haven't gotten into an accident yet, but have been really close. Like, horrible, break-screeching, adrenaline rushing, see my life before my eyes close.

The problem is, even when I'm not tired, I start to feel myself drifting off behind the wheel. Caffeine has no effect on me at all, so that doesn't help me. I try to listen to music really loud or to listen to NPR really loud, neither of those help me stay awake. This is embarrassing to admit but sometimes it comes down to singing "Row Row Row Your Boat" really loudly or having really loud conversations with myself to stave off the sleepy. The only thing that ever works is talking on the phone, which is obvs illegal in NY so I have to put it on speakerphone in my lap.

Someone help me! My fiance gets so mad at me for putting myself and others in a dangerous situation by being such a sleepy driver, but I have to drive a lot and don't really know how to prevent it.


@bonnbee I don't know if this is applicable, but one of my friends had a car crash, and afterwards was finding herself sleepy behind the wheel. Turns out it's a really common anxiety response - your body gets stressed and tired out, so it tells you to find somewhere safe and nap. Could that be part of it?


@bonnbee i.feel.your.pain


@bonnbee I slap myself across the face... No joke. Aslo alternate hot and cold temperatures.


@bonnbee Me too. One time I woke up just as I was careening into the next lane. Scary shit.

I blame my mom (it's always the mom's fault!) because when I was a baby she used to drive me around to get me to fall asleep. Now, for me, car = sleepy time.

For long-distance drives I try to have lots of music to sing along to and lots of coffee and I make lots of stops. Luckily, this annoys my boyfriend to no end so he usually just ends up driving.


Wait, when did the research saying you should smoke some crack get obsolete?


@Kneetoe When people learned how to cook meth.



Haha I'm old, really really old.


there's a comment on that article that I'm convinced is written by the Happiest Woman in America:

*For great nighttime sleep and all-day energy:

8-10 oz coffee within 10 minutes of waking--in my case at 5 AM. Breakfast at 8. Lunch at noon.

Shortly after lunch, 4-5 oz. coffee and a 15 minute nap.

Very small snack at 3 PM. Light-moderate exercise at 4. Light dinner at 6.

In bed 9-10 PM.

What also helps is eating/drinking little-to-no refined foods and alcohol; doing interesting work within and outside of the home; and interacting with pleasant people.

All this in the hope that my experience might steer someone in a helpful direction....*


@heyits This list is missing Cheetos for lunch and an entire bottle of wine for dinner. 3-hour nap at 7:00 pm, asleep by 2:30 am.


@melis you just described my weekend.


@heyits I just described the first half of my day! All signs point to it being an accurate descriptor of my evening.


This is essentially what I used to do before finals in college. I would set my alarm for fifteen minutes earlier than I needed, take a caffeine pill, and wake up in fifteen minutes feeling great.

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