Humour

Help! Naps are ambushing me

As you get older, you nap because you have to, not because you feel like it

17 March 2019 - 00:00


In my first year of varsity, I attempted some last-minute panic swotting (or "cramming", as we called it back then) for a Cell Biology test. A combination of fatigue and despair washed over me, so I rested my head on my arms to take a young snooze.
When I ultimately came to, a schoolmate, Skhu Mthembu, had left a note for me. "Lala uphumule, qhawe. Ibiyini imfundo uma sesifikile isiqhwaga" (Rest in peace, hero. Who cares about education when the ultimate bully has struck?) That's the Zulu colloquialism for sleepiness: isiqhwaga - the "the ultimate bully".
I was reminded of this last week. The missus and I were having a chat about our plans for the weekend in the "adult" lounge. She abruptly stood up to go and look for something in the bedroom. After about 20 minutes I went to investigate. I found her comfortably tucked into bed, snoring ever so peacefully. Had it not been for the fact that she was still in her clothes, one would have sworn it was a planned nap. But no, isiqhwaga had ambushed her in the middle of searching for whatever she'd been looking for.
Almost 90% of mammals are what is called polyphasic sleepers. That's just fancy talk to say that they sleep in short bursts, more than once in a 24-hour cycle. Humans apparently belong to the minority of mammals that are monophasic. The notable exceptions are kindergarten-age toddlers and folks approaching the Scottsville Racecourse of the up-run Comrades Marathon that is life. Well, that is if you don't count pathologically lazy columnists after a large beans-and-samp helping.
As I move deeper into my 40s, I realise that not only has the frequency of my naps increased exponentially but they are no longer optional. Nowadays, I nap because I have to, not because I feel like it. And if I don't submit to my naps, they attack me relentlessly, in a movie I call The Revenge of the Nap.
I co-host the Friday edition of the Kaya FM breakfast show Good Friday from 6am to 9am. That means getting up at 3.30am. I recently left the studio at around 10am and, instead of going straight home like a mentally balanced person, I decided to go to Doppio Zero in Rosebank. After my criminally large breakfast, I called for an Uber and promptly passed out, face up.
In the Caribbean, this post-meal slumber is referred to as "niggeritis". But be warned: you can only use this term if you're as well-endowed with melanin as I am. If you're Caucasian, I'd go with Macajuel syndrome, named after the Trinidadian snake that naps for several days after devouring small mammals.
In any case, it must have been almost noon when my waiter nudged me ever so politely and whispered, "Would you be more comfortable if I got you a cushion, perhaps?" I immediately went into that auto-belligerent mode one goes into when caught in an embarrassing, unplanned nap and snapped, "I'm fine!" He shrugged resignedly in that, "Well, suit yourself, but the other patrons are taking selfies with your corpse and posting them on Instagram" manner, which snapped me out of combative mode.
I take comfort in the knowledge that I'm in good company. I'm reliably told that when JFK wasn't removing Bay of Pigs bacon and egg from his face or frolicking on the White House lawn with Marilyn, he took regular naps.
Our own son of the soil, Robert Mugabe, often went on brief excursions to the land of the ancestors to consult them during summits. Honourable minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane has had to deal with such minnows as the EFF's Mbuyiseni Ndlozi and the IFP's Mkhuleko Hlengwa interrupting her royal slumbers during parliamentary proceedings. How unbecoming of them.
I now plan my entire life around my naps. But I have two impediments standing in the way of blissful afternoon naps. The first is that after passing out on the couch and walking to the bedroom to take full advantage of my sleepy disposition, the urge to sleep picks up a basketball and goes outside to practise free throws.
The second impediment is that Stephen King's entire catalogue has nothing on the horror movies that play out in my mind when I sleep during the daytime.
My friends who struggle to fall asleep always refer to my napping woes as humblebrags. They tell me how lucky I am to be able to sleep at the snap of a finger. But I think they believe that because they have never been subjected to the ignominy of being invited to a cocktail dinner at an embassy and been woken up by a poke in the ribs from your wife because the ambassador wants to hear your considered views on whether the AU should impose a cap of 15 presidential terms and an age restriction of 120 years on African presidents.

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