There are two things you should know about me: I will do (almost) anything for a story, and I welcome any excuse to take a nap. That’s how I found myself lounging on the sofa on a Friday afternoon dialing in Hotline of the Ministry of Naps.
The Department of Nap was founded in 2016 by theologian, activist and teaching artist Tricia Hersey, who is affectionately known as The Nap Bishop, and it tests the liberating power of naps. I first learned about this organization during a leadership break for Black women in 2019 and have been a loyal follower ever since, which is why I had to call the hotline myself.
First, I set myself up for success by closing my laptop and putting my phone on “Do Not Disturb” so I wouldn’t be tempted by notifications. I open the window to let the autumn breeze in, cut the wick on my almond croissant candle from Target before lighting it up and laying it down on my sofa underneath a chunky blanket crocheted by one of my good friends. I slide in my AirPods, dial 1-833-LUV-NAPS (588-6277) and close my eyes.
I was greeted by an audio recording of the founder of The Nap Congregation, Tricia Hersey, affectionately referred to as Bishop Nap. “We can bend time when we rest and we slow down,” she said, and for the next five minutes we did exactly that.
During the call, Hersey re-reads “The Past. . . present . . . future” by world-renowned poet Nikki Giovanni, instructs us to lie down and close our eyes as she does so. And I’m happy to oblige. Hersey also read an excerpt from The Theological Ethics of Women: A Reader, a collection written by nine African-American women in the fields of theology. Specifically, she cited the third chapter of Emilie M. Townes, “Ethics as an Art of Doing the Work Our Souls ought to have,” about liberation and freedom.
Later, Hersey said, “Rest is a liberating practice. “To imagine a new world centered on emancipation, the rest is our foundation.”
Before learning about The Nap Ministry, I thought that rest was something I had to earn. I don’t believe it’s my innate right as a Black woman, as Hersey preached to her legion of social media followers. But as the saying goes, when you know better, you do better.
So I’ve tried to listen to my body and incorporate rest into my daily life with no guilt – whether it’s allowing myself to take a nap in the middle of the day. lunch break; choose restorative yoga over more intense workouts; or curl up on the sofa with a good romance novel (thanks Guillory Jasmine).
As Hersey wrote in a recent Instagram post, “Exhaustion will not save us. The rest will. And there is science to back up her claims. The National Sleep Foundation states that naps can “restore alertness, enhance performance, and reduce mistakes and accidents.” One NASA research Studies on military pilots and astronauts show that a 10- to 20-minute energy nap improves performance by 34% and alertness by up to 54%.
But that is not the position of the Ministry of Nap. It is not a break to be more productive. It’s about taking a break as a liberating and recompense for Blacks in particular, and as an antithesis of capitalism. Sometimes we need permission to rest, which is where the Nap Department Hotline comes in.
While I didn’t fall asleep listening to the “recorded rest message,” as Hersey calls it, I did feel lighter afterward. I found my shoulders less tense and more determined to get the day’s work done. I also feel proud of myself for taking the time to put work aside and do nothing, if only for five minutes or so.
“You can rest,” Hersey said at the end of the call. “We’ll rest, let’s rest today.”