How I came to identify as a naptime activist, or, Stop waking your patients up!!

I used to have a complicated relationship with naps, and with rest in general.  I was raised middle class and went to public school.  The big idea was to get good grades, get into a good college like Harvard, and then live a life of comfort and security.  Activism was not high on the list of priorities in my family.  I bet a lot of people who ended up going to acupuncture school have a similar story.  After all, until the relatively recent CAN revolution, a career as an acupuncturist was overwhelmingly hyped and perceived as a comfortable life where you get to help some people, so the schools tend to attract people who are looking for that, which means a lot of middle class people.  

I am also an only child, raised by a single working mother who didn’t have a lot of attention for me at the end of the day.  Let’s put it this way:  I watched a lot of television in between the getting good grades and making plans for Harvard one day.  Good Times, the Love Boat, Laverne and Shirley, General Hospital.  Good times on the couch with the television, but no real substitute for good company or a good nap.  I am sure my mom could have used a good nap.  

I still have that pull today.  I recently moved my television to the basement so I didn’t have to have daily battles about it with my four year old daughter (the only child of a single working mom), but it calls me from there.  Watch me, bring me back, sit your butt on the couch, it says, and live the life of your dreams. Comfort and security could be yours, finally. 

This is not what I really want. 

What I really want is to change the way things are in the world.  With no training, how to begin?  For starters, I am going to claim some comfort, but not from the couch, not from the TV.  I am going to claim the comfort of a good nap — and we all know, it’s better with needles.  Our clinic t-shirts’ slogan on the back is “naptime for grownups.”  I am not going to claim this comfort just for myself.  I am going to claim it for the entire working class.  

Thinking about naps, I remembered a book called “Take a Nap – Change your life,”  by Sara Mednick.  The first pages talk about how people used to nap daily, it was part of a natural biphasic sleep pattern.  “So how did we lose this progeny? We can start by blaming the clock.  Between the 13th and 15th centuries, mechanical timepieces replaced the sundial and water clock.  The day, having previously been regarded as a series of experiences, could now be reduced to the passage of measurable units:  seconds, minutes, and hours.  Workers began getting paid by the hour instead of by the job, and it didn’t take long for the “Time is money” mantra to become the de facto law of the land.  Sleep, especially during the day, began to be perceived as a waste of time.” 
Not true, as we know. 

Now, I am all for naps.  Long, uninterrupted naps, with needles in and other people all around.  In warm, darkened rooms, cozy rooms.  In recliners, with blankets.  I see what these kinds of naps can do for people.  Four days a week, every week,  I see it.  And on another day or two if I am lucky, I get to be one of those people. 

I live in a pretty unique place, I think, this West Philly neighborhood.  Everywhere you look there are activists working hard to change the world.  You don’t necessarily know who they are, but you know that they are there.  There is a lot that I would like to do to change the way things are in the world.  The Working Class Acupuncture t-shirt slogan is “Acupuncture Can Change the World.”  That is a pretty big statement to make.  Changing the world, one nap at a time?  More like twenty naps at a time, multiplied by all the community clinics out there.  

I don’t feel like I have done enough, yet, to identify as another kind of activist.  But, I feel really comfortable claiming the identity of a naptime activist.  In doing so, I would like to say this to any acupuncturist who uses that clock as a timer, to any acupuncturist who puts the needles in and wakes their patients up 10 or 20 or 30 minutes later because they have another patient coming in for that table:  Stop it.  

In another blog, I wrote about a patient of mine who went to another acupuncturist for a treatment and was woken up and kicked out, the way it usually happens in typical acupuncture settings.   To her, more than having to pay all that extra money, this was the worst part of that experience.   So set up your practice so that you don’t have to do this.  Have more space.  Have recliners that people can sleep comfortably in.  Learn to work more quickly.  Talk less.  There are books on this subject.  Read them.  Join the revolution. 

Let the people nap. 

Author: ellengrover

is a punk at Philadelphia Community Acupuncture and POCA's current membership coordinator. Email her at

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  1. Yes!!!!

    You made my day, Ellen….Having to awaken someone is the worst moment of any day, IMO.

    Let ’em sleep.

    “Consciousness: That annoying time between naps” – Steven Wright

  2. Mmmmm naps with needles!

    I have to say – I believe wholeheartedly in the therapeutic value of naps – and, of course, in the therapeutic value of acupuncture.  Combine ’em and you’ve got a one-two punch of pure medicine for the body, and it’s so very simple.  I think you are really onto something with the idea of being an activist for naps (especially ones with needles).  I, myself, haven’t ever considered myself an activist of sorts for anything, perhaps because I understand an activist as being one who does SO much to get SO many people involved.  But maybe I am being a quieter, gentler activist because I encourage my patients to get a snooze in while they’re here, and discourage them from reading while being treated or engaging in any other activities.

    I must admit, the worst part of the private room treatments I used to occasionally receive were the being waked up.  I so looked forward to the rest I would be receiving, especially because, for me, that was part of what I was being treated for – and always there would be the inevitable falling asleep followed by the waking up from my acupuncturist before I had naturally woken up -on my own – such a bummer.  I much prefer the experience of snoozing among others, undisturbed, until I feel like I’m done.  And so that’s what I give my patients, too. 

  3. Napping is good.

    I grew up in the Philippines and my dad, who worked from home, used to nap in the early afternoons frequently. That was not unusual there. In the U.S., it is. And that’s too bad, because naps are so refreshing.

    The other evening, a new patient had just been needled and she was busy tapping away at her Iphone. I didn’t say anything, waited a few minutes. She had a relative who was resting w/ eyes closed, having been needled first. Soon, she too was lying back, w/ eyes closed. That was nice to see.

  4. Thanks for this post…

    I come from a family of sunday nappers perhaps because my parents didn’t have the ambitions of your mom.  Also, I was a Peace Corps volunteer in West Africa and the sieste featured prominently in daily life.  Of course my neighbors were farmers and got to the fields about 4:30 am and worked until late morning when the sun got too high and hot.  Then everyone ate, cleaned the homestead and napped until it was time to go out in the late afternoon for a few hours.  

    We don’t talk about the value of napping nearly enough so thanks for reminding us all of its esteemed value. 

  5. High Five!

    I love it when the room is full of napping folks.  When people ask me what I do for a living, I tell them I give naps to adults.

    I have a spiel that I give to orient new patients to the circle.  My favorite part is when I tell them “if your eyes are closed I assume you like it here, and I will leave you alone.  This is your time, stay as long as you want.”

    Great blog.  Great cause.



    Circle Community Acupuncture

    San Francisco

  6. Great post!

    Sadly, our culture does not value sleep, and people’s health suffers.  Sleep is seen as unproductive and unnecessary; something for people who don’t work hard enough and certainly not for those who have busy, important lives.  Everyone’s heard the line “you’ll get enough sleep when you’re dead.”  To that I like to add, “…and you’ll get dead a lot quicker without enough sleep.”  No wonder so many people burn out their Liver and Kidney yin.  No wonder everyone’s exhausted all the time!  No wonder we’re all cranky and irritable!  We need sleep!  Speaking of cranky and irritable, it’s time for my afternoon nap.  Thanks, Ellen, for reminding me.

  7. great post

    Thanks Ellen,

    Having snuck in a 20 minute nap myself today, I can definitely relate to the nearly lost art of napping. 

    One of the challenges I often have is the spouse of a patient in the waiting room who needs their partner woken up by a certain time…..I do my best to defend the napper.

    In the end, the nappers always win….all naps are dress rehearsals for The Big Nap which – though not on our calendars – approaches closer and closer with each passing moment.

    So our time is precious, and it is important to make good use of it, but not at the expense of regular naps. In fact, my Buddhist teacher has been staying with me this past week and I’ve noticed that he takes mid day naps regularly too.




    That’s gonna be my new tshirt slogan.  Great post!  It’s deeply radical to encourage people to step outside of industrialized time!  People are often surprised how long they rested; I usually say something like “yes, time has a different texture when the needles are in” and everyone says yeah!  I love that feeling of seeing a whole room full of deeply relaxed people; I joke that I’m the sandman.  And when folks get to re-emerge on their own, with the tension gone from around their eyes and jaws, and roses in their cheeks–there’s just nothing better. 

  9. Power naps!

    We were thinking that a great marketing campaign would be to sell “power naps” to the executive types in the area.


    I tell people that I’m like a pre-school teacher right after snack time, putting everybody down for their quiet time.  And thankfully my not-so-little tykes are much more cooperative than I remember ever being at nap time!


    Every day, I celebrate having the best job in the world.  Thanks for the great post!

    Julia in Berkeley

  10. I can’t remember who said

    I can’t remember who said this but it’s a favorite quote from a quote a day calendar:


    Sleep is the golden cord that binds our bodies to health. 

  11. Momo

    Did anyone else ever read Michael Ende’s book “Momo“?  This post makes me think it’s time to re-read it…

  12. i was that prescool teacher and a queen of naps!

    i was a prescool teacher for several years and aside from working in an awesome program devoted to listening to and observing the kids and then designing curriculum around what was interesting to them, what they needed (great training for later discovery of CAN!), one of my favorite parts was being the queen of naps. i guess i was so devoted to them because i really loved them myself, but also because it was just magical time! and there’s nothing better than that soft transition from sleeping to waking–as a friend said recently: “i went out hard, i came back soft.”

    in spite of the fact that several parents assured me that their child was “not a napper, ever,” (a comment we often hear from patients as well, eh? as they wake from an hour and a half) i acquired a reputation for being able to get every last child to rest–of course, the classroom grandma’s snoozed in their rockers and i fell into that almost sleep state as well. it was the best thing ever–you could practically jump into the dreams around the room.

    what i honestly have always thought is that it was due to  rubbing or gently tapping their backs in synch with their heartbeat at first and gradually slowing it or mixing it up into a different rhythm; that and breathing deeply myself, as well as having a room full of other sleepers entraining each other. wow–it’s a CA clinic!  

    ellen, thanks for this post. i have been reminded a lot lately that the jewels are the really simple parts of this experience, the things the rest of our lives often overlook.




    Good health is not a measure of adapting to a sick society.

    When the power of love outshines the love of power, the world will know peace.

  13. As Ellen’s mother, I differ

    As Ellen’s mother, I differ from her perception that activism did not have a big place in her family. We scared her when we were part of the nuclear freeze movement, her Dad and I protested at Limerick Nuclear power plant. Her step-father and I belong to liberal religious communities which offered sanctuary to Guatemalan refugees, housed the homeless, lobbied for environmental causes. Lots of political protest letters and now e-mails leave our household everyday. I am a member of Granny Peace Brigade and a Weaver’s Way coop member since 1990. I think Ellen’s movement into the CAN movement is a direct result of being raised in a liberally active family. Well, just another viewpoint. I support all you are doing – a great model, glad you are going coop.

  14. .

    thanks for setting the record straight. those are some great causes you are invovled in by the way, ellen’s mom.