In most Western nations, napping is a sign of weakness. Those who do it — or, even worse, need it — are slothful wastes of resources who can’t hack it in the “real world.” They lack grit, determination, and stick-to-itiveness. They’re getting old. Why nap when you can put in more hours, be more productive, make (your employer) more money? Naps are for babies and senior citizens and other non-productive members of society. They simply aren’t tolerated in able-bodied adults.
Yeah: as much as people are willing to pay lip service to the importance of a solid eight hours every night (actually sleeping that many hours is another thing entirely), most do not seriously entertain the value of napping. That’s a real mistake, because not only do humans have a long and storied tradition of snoozing in the middle of the day, there are also huge benefits to naps. Far from being anti-productivity wastes of time, a well-timed nap can boost cognitive function, improve work output, and make you healthier, happier, and a better employee (and person).
We are time-strapped to a historically unprecedented extent. The vast majority of available evidence suggests that our hunter-gatherer ancestors enjoyed ample amounts of leisure time. Now, extant hunter-gatherer groups aren’t perfect representations of prehistoric hunter-gatherer groups on every aspect of diet and lifestyle, but I’d argue they offer illustrative examples of ancestral leisure time. The ones who’ve survived till now have been pushed off ancestral lands onto marginalized ones, often with fewer resources and requiring greater time commitments for the same return. Yet even people like the Hadza of Tanzania “work” only about four hours a day. The rest is leisure time. And midday 1-2 hour naps to escape the sun’s peak heat are common.