I’m thinking back to Woody Allen’s film Sleeper in which he’s been frozen for fifty years, whatever, comes back to life to find that smoking has been pronounced as beneficial to health. OK, to be fair I haven’t seen this actual headline yet but it’s surely only a matter of time. This morning, while researching on the internet for information about napping and what a Pandora’s Box I opened, more of which in a moment, I came across an article that described research that had found that soybean oil was bad for you. Research on mice who have apparently remarkably similar physiological make up to us, had shown that soybean oil increased weight and, and this is the killer (?) for me with diabetes, increased the risk of type 2 diabetes, led to greater insulin resistance not to mention turning one’s liver to fat. I didn’t even read the linked article about olive oil being detrimental to our health, in fact it said – is cooking with olive oil dangerous? Perhaps it just means if we set in on fire it can burn the kitchen down and, if we were in the kitchen at the time, this would be dangerous. I probably will never know. I’d had enough. I mean you do your best to eat healthy and this is what science gives us – contradictory information about what we need to do to stay alive.
It was in the spirit of, ‘is this good for you?’ that I was trying to find out more about the benefits or otherwise of napping, something that Mrs Summerhouse and I seem to be doing with increasing frequency. If it were just me with my diabetes I would simply associate my tiredness in the afternoon with this, but Mrs SH doesn’t have diabetes and is pretty fit and active what with her yoga and walking the dogs an’ all and she’s just as bad, or is it bad? That was my question and it started a few days ago with an article on my AOL homepage. The title, as you might predict, was – is napping a good thing? The article was suitably unhelpful, napping is either restorative or a sign of ill-health. Great. There were a couple of responses to the article, the first of which said something like, I’m 81 and life is too short to spend it sleeping. Yep, fair point. The next one said I’m 73 and a nap does me a power of good and finally the article concluded, it all depends on the individual whether napping is good or bad, but didn’t elaborate. So not much in the way of guidance there.
What I need is more research, I need to get to the bottom of this issue, I thought, as, as I say, we’re doing quite a lot of it. I might as well have read the sport pages for guidance. Some research shows a link between napping and increased mortality rates, that’s death isn’t it, ergo a bad thing. Another site said, ‘daytime napping is an early indicator of underlying ill health’. But, of course, it didn’t stop there. The research also said that a short nap of 20 – 30 minutes (other research define ‘a short nap’ as between 15 and 90 minutes, quite a difference there) is beneficial to a person. This research talks about benefits to memory (yep need that), improved creativity and lower stress levels, all good to my way of thinking. Other research described how napping can help to improve mood, alertness and performance. Well, personally speaking, I need all of this and more some days.
In our experience of the area, we’re OK (if that is what we are) providing we keep moving, then we just complain about being knackered but don’t actually fall asleep because we’re too busy. That said, we are retired and we had hoped that, at least a part of, our retirement plan, was to relax. If we’re at home we do this by reading in the afternoon after the second walk with the pups. You know, duty done now we can take it easy / indulge ourselves, so we read. Sometimes fiction and sometimes non-fiction, the effect is the same. Neither does how much we’re enjoying our books seem to matter. After 20 minutes or so we get the ‘I’ll just close my eyes for a moment’ feeling coming on. Of course we could get up and go out into the garden and build a brick wall or chop a tree down but then we think, well, why should we? If we want to surrender to the joys (and it does feel joyful, a little guilt perhaps but on the whole not enough to make us get up and chop down a tree) of a snooze, then we bloody well ought to be able to do so. So some confusion about the best way forward. What to do?
Well, I think I have the answer. I have always said that a person needs values in their lives. These values are the bedrock of our day to day decision-making, our on-going behaviour. They are not situation specific but offer guidance when we seem to have to choose between two equally ‘right’ options. So this is one of those occasions. The research, if that is what it is, suggests that napping is both a good and a bad thing – it’s restorative or we’re wasting our lives or, worse still shortening our lives. Now one of my values throughout the whole of my life has been to live a life in balance, in harmony, I believe the Navaho Indians call it hozho, living in harmony with your environment. One of the bonuses of retirement is that we can fine tune this state of balance in a way that would not have been possible when we had a job. So, by that reasoning, a day should be in balance which, in old money means, some intellectual stuff, some physical exercise type stuff and some napping. There are probably a few other areas but that will do for now I think.
So there we are problem solved, a little bit of a nap, say about 30 minutes on those days when we have the time and have done other counter-balancing things, is a very good thing in our retirement years. We’re not watching day-time TV or reading fiction books in bed in the morning, so a modest snooze most days is OK for the retired person, well for us as retired people. zzzzz.