I'm often asked what I enjoy most about retirement with the unstated assumption that it must have something to do with pursuing new passions, travelling the globe or writing the great North American novel.
Granted, those are all noble and worthwhile pursuits for the superannuated, but they're really not up my alley. Until now, I've been a little embarrassed to tout the one new retirement endeavor that I am truly passionate about: napping.
As a veteran retiree, I have discovered that napping is to retirement what lying is to politics. In short, it's essential. Napping is the lifeblood of retired life.
It's not that I am new to napping. After all, as a longtime government employee, I had some passing experience with brief periods of daytime semi-consciousness.
I have discovered that napping is to retirement what lying is to politics. In short, it's essential.
But napping while at work is a pale imitation of the real thing. Closing your door and catching 40 winks or nodding off for a few minutes during a two-hour meeting hardly qualifies as a genuine, honest-to-goodness nap.
The first rule of napping is to wait until after midday. Like the bureaucrat who looks out the window in the morning, if you nap before lunchtime, you may have nothing to do in the afternoon.
The second rule of napping is to avoid any and all distractions. That means a quiet bedroom with the drapes drawn and the phone unplugged. It also means a locked front door. Nothing destroys the Zen of siesta like the ring of an unwanted call or visitor.
To achieve a proper naptitude, get under the bedcovers. Sure, it's easy to just plunk yourself down on top of the bed and fall asleep. But if you wish to stay asleep, it's necessary to achieve a fully prone, undercover position.
Next, read. That's right; don't just roll over and attempt to fall asleep. Give your body some time to adjust to the upcoming slumber. Curl up with a good book and you'll be yawning in no time.
If you've done everything right, sleep should start to descend on you within minutes. When you can no longer remember what you just read, it's time to roll over and start your extended trip to daytime dreamland.
Some experts recommend that you only nap for 15 minutes or so. They're obviously not retired. If you've got the time and the inclination, don't limit your napping abilities to so-called catnaps. Napping is a journey, not a destination.
For the new retiree, don't be disappointed if you only fall asleep for half an hour or so. That's to be expected. After all, you're still partially in workplace mode and no doubt afraid that your supervisor will once again discover you asleep.
Napping is a journey, not a destination.
As with any undertaking, practice makes perfect. Keep napping and soon you'll find that your afternoon siesta increases in duration. Like the new retiree who soon breaks a hundred on the golf course, in no time at all, you'll be regularly clocking in at one full hour or more of quality shuteye.
In time, you may even be able to achieve the ultimate retiree goal: the two-hour nap. But don't be disappointed if you can't reach this zenith of afternoon zzzs right away. Marathon midday maxi-sleeps take dedication and months of training.
Vary your routine with occasional catnaps and power snoozes. Try cross-napping where you alternate between short naps and long siestas. This will help you develop the ability to maintain an unconscious state for longer and longer periods of time.
Eventually you'll learn to turn that routine nap into an extraordinary nap. For example, if you wake up in an hour, don't give up. Simply turn over and chances are that you'll fall back asleep with an excellent shot of reaching that elusive two-hour mark.
There is nothing like the dazed, dopey feeling you have coming out of a long, long nap. At first, you may not even know who or where you are. But as the film of sleep lifts from your body, you delightfully embrace your return to daytime consciousness.
Like any endeavor worth pursuing, napping requires dedication and repetition. Remember, Rome wasn't built in a day and that's probably because Roman workers knew how to nap. And if you apply yourself, you, too, will be a regular afternoon friend of that other Roman -- Somnus, the god of sleep who undoubtedly lived by the motto dormio ante omnia or napping above all else.
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