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The triumph of Napman, Part 1: Dawn

The triumph of Napman, Part 1: Dawn

by Wolf Pascoe on December 10, 2012

When you are drowsy in a morning, and find a reluctance to getting out of your bed, make this reflection with yourself: ‘I must rise to discharge the duties incumbent on me as a man. And shall I do with reluctance what I was born to do, and what I came into the world to do?’

— Marcus Aurelius

I’m going to come right out and say it. It’s because of guys like Marcus Aurelius (another nation builder) that the world is such a mess. When I’m drowsy in a morning, and find a reluctance to getting out of my bed, I make this reflection: someday, I’m going to get to sleep as long as I want.

Here’s a tip for you. If you like sleep, don’t work in a hospital. Work in a bank.

Here you go, Mr. Aurelius:

Dawn with her rose-red fingers might have shone
upon their tears, if with her glinting eyes
Athena had not thought of one more thing.
She held back the night, and night lingered long
at the western edge of the earth, while in the east
she reined in Dawn of the golden throne at Ocean’s banks,
commanding her not to yoke the windswift team that brings men light,
Blaze and Aurora, the young colts that race the morning on.

The Odyssey, XXIII.273-280, trans. Fagles.




It must be conceded that for the most part, the ancients had it right: live in sensible agreement with the natural world. This means, I suppose, not arguing with the sun. How sweet, in fact, to wake with first light, dawn slowly leaking around the curtains, yellow-rose cat paws on nose, cheeks and eyelids.

Would that I could.

In the latitude where I live and depending on the day of the year, the sun rises between 5:41 am and 7:18 am, which is too late a wake up call.

In my operating room the first case of the day is scheduled for 7:15 am, and there are many things an anesthesiologist must do before then. So I set the alarm (three alarms actually—so great is my dread of sleeping through number one and number two) for 4:15 in the morning.

Take that, Marcus Aurelius.

There is no earthly reason for operating so early, and no medical one. It’s simply habit, the way things have been done since the middle of the nineteenth century when the discovery of ether anesthesia began the modern era of surgery.

The habit traces to one prominent and forceful surgeon who happened to be an early riser and did not like waiting to operate. This man–may his insomniac name forever be blotted out–urged the early start time on his colleagues in his hospital’s operating room.

Such was his influence that early A.M. surgery became the norm everywhere.




All right, so I have to get up early. Big deal.

Get thyself to bed early, I hear you say? You try getting to bed before your kid. I can’t do it. And my kid gets to bed at 9:30 pm these days.

Drink coffee in the morning? No problem if you don’t mind the diuretic effect. But running to the bathroom isn’t an option when you’re giving anesthesia.

Thanks for the suggestions, but I already have the solution. I fall back on my secret resource, my green pasture, my still water: my glorious afternoon nap.




For sheer productive use of time and creative renewal–to say nothing of unadulterated pleasure–naps are the best of the best, and cannot be beat. There is only one activity in the world that naps maybe do not beat, and after that activity you need a nap anyway.

Susan Cain, in her book Quiet–The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, describes what she calls the restorative niche, the getaway that quiet folk must have in order to put up with the noisy ones. I like this idea. A nap is a restorative niche for sleepy people, in a world that can’t stop go-getting.

Some years ago Nick asked me, “Do you have any superpowers, dada?”

“Yes,” I said. “I’m Napman. Dada is just my secret identity.”

“Is taking a nap a superpower?” Nick said.

“Indeed it is,” I assured him. I am Napman. Hear me snore.

You disagree? Agree in principle but lack the execution?

Well, then. You have my deepest sympathy.



This is the first part of a two part post. Part 2 on December 31: Siesta

Bedtime story



 Ondine’s Curse. Don’t you love that name? It’s a rare disorder where the body forgets to breathe during sleep. It’s got a new name now, congenital central hypoventilation syndrome (CCHS), which is the whole problem with medical education, right there.

Lifehacker: 10 Sleeping tricks. If you don’t know about Lifehacker, here’s your chance.




Sleep troubles? Just Add Father is listening. (Add your thoughts by clicking a few lines below below, where it says comments or add one. I always respond here.)


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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Wendy Sheinkopf December 10, 2012 at 1:28 pm

Oh, the wonderful, restorative powers of naps! I, too, believe in them, truly. My late father was a cardiologist, who also believed greatly in the wonders of a needed catnap, to be at one’s best. When feeling on the verge of having less than 100% of his mental accuity because of fatigue, he would relay a ‘code’ message to one of his nurses in his office, such as “Twenty minutes in exam room 2”, then go into the chosen exam room, close the door, and promptly fall asleep on the examination table. The announcement of the duration of the catnap was somewhat superfluous; only relayed to let his assistants know where he would be. According to my father, he never overslept the nap—up he would spring, right on time, re-charged and reinvigorated before he could be summoned. One of the best parts of my being self-employed and working out of a home office, is the ability to do just what my father did when in his office: indulge in the delicious restorative naps that live up to billing. Like my father, I can slumber immediately upon need, and wake up happily revived and refreshed. Nap on, Napman!! We who follow your path, salute you!
Fondest Best


Wolf Pascoe December 11, 2012 at 1:32 am

Your father clearly was a genius. One can do worse than take after him.


The Exception December 10, 2012 at 6:27 pm

I have yet to figure out how to tap into the wonders of napping, and my daughter, dear soul, follows in my footsteps along the path of finding that little piece of silence in books over behind closed lids. Give me a walk outside or words written across pages and I too will feel vastly refreshed. But I do totally get the idea behind catnap and those of us who just require that little bit of quiet.
I have early hours; refuse to go to bed before my daughter; so she is required to go to bed at the same time I do (which is often not late enough for her teen aged self and is often beyond my bed time). Not sure how long this strategy will last, I just don’t like the idea of her being awake, doing her work on her own.


Wolf Pascoe December 11, 2012 at 1:39 am

I have heard there are nap-challenged folk among us. Here is a primer:


Barbara December 11, 2012 at 8:06 pm

In general, I am not a napper. Naps are my kryptonite. They zap me and make me useless all day. The only times that has been an exception is when I attended Girl’s State and they forced us to take 30-minute naps, and when I was pregnant (although also working 12-hour-shifts, so usually couldn’t give in to that nap!) But this post made me laugh and good for you that you found a secret weapon!


Wolf Pascoe December 12, 2012 at 12:22 am

“Naps are my kryptonite.”

This is distressing. Most distressing.


Kyle Bradford December 12, 2012 at 8:00 am

I’m a banker…and work 100 feet from my office.

Don’t ask, you wouldn’t like the answer.


Wolf Pascoe December 12, 2012 at 9:31 pm



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