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A Naptitude for Being Right
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When you're young, the world is your oyster just waiting for you to find the pearl; you can do anything. At least, that's the way I felt, when, at 16, I left home with a grand total of $200 in my pocket to cross the entire continent to attend the most expensive university in the country. It never crossed my mind that I couldn't do it.

I hadn't waited for my high school transcript. As soon as I was walked through the graduation line in the high school gym, I got in the car, drove home, called a taxi, took my pre-packed bags to the airport and shook the dust of Connecticut from my feet.

I worked two part-time jobs and went to school full-time. I took a nap whenever and wherever I could, because real uninterrupted sleep was in short supply.

My junior year the Dean of Women called me into her office and demanded that I drop one of my jobs, saying that I qualified for a partial scholarship. Me? I guess so. I was so busy keeping my head above water, I thought scholarships were only for straight A students. My grades were in the B range. No time to study; sometimes no time to even read the books. I often wonder how I did it. (Music classes and language classes were guaranteed A's for me).

My senior year I went to Stanford-in-Italy on a full scholarship. I discovered that everyone naps in Europe. The middle of the day break is about two hours, everything shuts down. It's a great custom and I embraced it wholeheartedly.

In grad school I continued with the naps. I always woke up refreshed and feeling revived after about 30 minutes to an hour, never more.

The Peace Corps sent me to India. Another country where everyone takes a break in the middle of the day. Fine with me; I was already in the groove.

By the time I returned to the United States, I was firmly in the habit, and all through my years of teaching and then years of working for my present employer, I have kept the custom. I feel exhausted by the end of the day if I don't have my nap; conversely, a nap recharges the batteries for the second half of the day and I feel great.

I paid a price for it though. The man who is currently the head of my current division made it clear that he disapproved of my naps and that I was making a career choice if they continued. He considered them an aberration and unprofessional, he said. So be it. They continue to this day.

Turns out I was right. Recent studies, the most recent at the University of California at Berkeley (where I did my graduate work), show that naps make you smarter. Subjects who were allowed to take a midafternoon nap did far better on the test than those who did not. Sleep seems to reboot the brain, clearing short term memory and allowing for unconscious problem solving.

It's nice to be vindicated so many years later, but...well...I wish.... Yeah, I know, if wishes were horses, then beggars would ride.

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