Nap Nap In a Tuk-Tuk

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I love a good nap. My day usually isn’t complete unless I get one in. They aren’t particularly long, but they are invaluable for recharging. A little snooze for 15 or 20 minutes has proven to be a great way to recharge my batteries, and keep my energy and productivity up throughout the day. Yet, when I tell people this, especially my fellow Americans, I’m looked at like I’m some sort of bizarre alien. Regularly incorporating naps into the day is a foreign concept in the U.S. Sometimes I get the impression that people see it as a personal failing.

I fully confess that at one time I believed as the vast majority of Americas do. I should work all day, be productive, and the sleep as little as possible, but as “hard” as possible at night. Work. Work. Work. Then I read about Thomas Edison. Edison took this to the extreme. He actually was opposed to the idea of deep sleep. Instead he favored the idea of quick naps, believing that his no sleep/work ethic would help keep him ahead of his competition. Essentially he told himself that he was out working everyone else. As much as I enjoy a nap or three, I’m not about to give up my nights. I do respect him, though, for having the fortitude to push through the natural desire to rest.

It was in the 1950s that researchers began to truly study sleep, and began to learn that insomnia (natural or self-imposed) actually hurts the body and the mind. Without deep “R.E.M.” sleep, we begin to loose the ability to think clearly and to focus on things. It can impact all parts of who we are. For example, recent studies are showing in increasing numbers the correlation to ADHD seen in children and loud snoring. Essentially, children are constantly waking themselves up and not getting a good nights sleep. As a result, they have tremendous difficulty focusing on any task for a prolonged period of time.

I can say from personal experience, how it can impact you.  I’ve had two bouts of insomnia. Each resulted in a horrible depression, and sudden and often severe mood swings. My behaviors became irradict, and I lost a sense of who I was. I began to lash out my friends, and mentally beat myself up. It was horrible. Both situations were stress related, and instead of pushing through, my body was telling me to slow down, stop, and rest. I needed to actually rest, and let myself process the stresses I was feeling and gain some perspective and clarity on the situations. Instead, I was standing in the middle of the storm, fighting it and myself – a situation I couldn’t win. Today when I find myself in an overwhelmed emotional state, I’ve learned to sleep more rather than less, and I can be more alert to what’s going on around me and inside of me. I make better decisions, and I can better handle more challenges that at one point would have stressed me out.

I am comfortable with my napping tendencies, and my sleep schedule, even though, I know I still tend to sleep a lot less at night than most of the people I know (I tend to function really well with about 5-7 hours, not the normal 7-9). Then I started traveling, and I got to see how the pros do it.

When I first went to Italy, I was a frustrated to learn that many businesses there close down for long lunches at home. Stores close and then reopen a few hours later, after a hearty meal and an afternoon nap have been had. Maybe it’s because I’m a leo, but this irritated me to no end. It interfered with my plans and forced me to work around someone else’s schedule. A few trips to Italy later, and something about this began to grown on me. I could escape from the afternoon sun. I didn’t have to race around to get something done that afternoon because I knew I would have the evening, and suddenly I could actually make it to the 10:00p.m. dinners that once made me double over from hunger pains.

In short, I began to embrace the nap culture. I still do. Most evenings I come home from work and the gym, and find myself getting a little too comfortable on my sofa. That always leads to a late afternoon nap. When I wake up, it’s dinner time, and I’m ready to go for the night. I can be productive and actually get things accomplished.

This isn’t that removed from the natural, biological way we sleep. Sleep is an amazing thing, and our bodies’ natural sleep pattern is actually very different than what we attempt to force it to do. Until the late 1800s and early 1900s and the advent of artificial lighting, the normal sleep pattern was split. Most people went to sleep at sunset and slept until midnight or one, and then naturally awoke. “The midnight hour” was when one would pray, write correspondence, have sex, or read and quietly contemplate. In fact when a person goes “off the grid” within a matter of days their body will revert to this cycle. The seven to nine hour sleep schedule that we operate on is simply a construct of the modern world. Our biology operates differently.

Last year, though, while I was in Southeast Asia, I saw sleep habits that made my own look childish and the Italians seem positively amateurish. Those people can seriously nap. In fact, I haven’t been anywhere else on earth where I had to wake people up to try to do business with them, had my money refused, and the person roll over and go back to sleep. Case in point: tuk-tuk drivers. Bangkok’s streets overflow with candy colored three wheeled vehicles that are open air, and serve to move people from one end of the city to the other. Imagine a taxi. Now, paint it pink. Remove all the sides, except for the windshield. Replace the steering wheel with bicycle handle bars. Give it a loud “go-cart” engine, and you’ll have some idea of what I’m talking about.

The amazing thing about this though is that when they aren’t hauling people through the crushing streets, the drivers tend to park their tuk-tuks together, and then they either lie down across the bench seats or actually hang a hammock up inside the vehicle and sway back and forth over the seats. If you want to go somewhere, you’ll have wake up a driver, who gives you the angriest case of “stink eye” you’ve ever seen. We would tell them where we wanted to go and sometimes they would groggily pull themselves together and crank up the engine, and other times simply wave us away and collapse back down onto the seat. No matter what they outcome, communication with any driver would always consist of them asking us “Why you want to go there?” I guess they needed to know if your trip was worth the energy it would take to get themselves moving.

In Vietnam, the culture has gone scooter crazy. If it’s a motor cycle, a scooter, or even a Vespa, you’ll see people driving as fast as they possibly can, surrounded by as many people can jam the streets with other two-wheeled vehicles. They also love to slam on their breaks suddenly, drive down pedestrian sidewalks, through grassy parks, and to see how many passengers they can fit on their bikes.

All of these must take a toll on people. Exhaustion sets in, and the urge to rest takes over. People park their bikes in groups on the sidewalk, and then stretch out with their feet on the handlebars and promptly go to sleep. The heat of the day’s sun shining down on them, they sleep the day away. It’s a fascinating balancing act to see.   One forgetful roll or an attempt at making yourself comfortable and you’ll be on the sidewalk, most likely with a several hundred pound motorbike laying on top you.


I know that people giggle and roll their eyes at my propencity for napping, but I take comfort in what it does for me. Maybe one day I’ll go pro, but in the mean time I’m enjoying my amateur status.

Get the Toland Travels app for iPhones – Toland Travels Postcards – A 5 STAR APP!

Get it here:


“Like” Toland Travels on Facebook.

Follow me Instagram – Tolandtravels

On Twitter @Tolandtravels

Toland Travels is on Tumblr, too!



Categories: Asia, My View of Things, North America


Subscribe to our RSS feed and social profiles to receive updates.

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: