Allie Holtzer, 127 TCCS
As children, the idea of taking a nap would throw us into tizzies. Tantrums would ensue and there’s a good chance there would be foot stomping, crying, and maybe the throwing of a toy. However, in the end we would succumb to the after-lunch lull of a full stomach and drift off into dream land. Then as the years passed, naps became few and far between, but then came puberty. Sleeping until 2pm on the weekend was a norm and if mom came in to wake you a squeal was bound to come from the deep recesses of blankets in the dark room filled with hormones and band posters. But then as the years go on, something amazing happens, we have more control of our schedules and we find time slots in our days that are perfect for a welcome little snooze!
I am never one to turn down the opportunity to “rest my eyes”, so when I arrived in Thailand and found napping was a countrywide phenomenon, I was very pleased. On my first day with my host family during Pre-Service Training I was TOLD by my host grandma to take a nap. My Thai was extremely minimal at that point so we used Google translate and when the words showed up on my screen I was filled with joy. I thought, “forced naps!? This must be why foreigners never leave this place!”
In Thai the word nap, “non len” loosely translates to “play sleep”. I love this phrase and it is something you can say to any Thai and they will completely understand the necessity of your absence from whatever you were supposed to be doing. Another term I love to use is “hue non”, which means “hungry for sleep”. The first time I heard this I thought YES, yes I am hungry for sleep that’s the perfect description!
So now that you know what to say when you want to take a nap or to tell people where you’ve been, let’s go over some important factors when napping in Thailand.
Step One: What time of day is best to nap?
Most Thais will nap after lunch. In the villages where most Peace Corps Volunteers live, our neighbors are farmers. They work all morning before the sun becomes unbearable, they eat lunch, and then they nap. However on weekends or holidays, I like to take this time to do things either around my house or take a walk around my village, fewer people will ask where I’m going or what I’m doing because they’ll be asleep! After I am done with my personal chores I will take my nap. I tend to find naps more satisfying after I’ve finished tasks.
Step Two: Prepping for your nap.
If you’ve ever heard of the country of Thailand, you’ve probably heard it’s hot. Like really hot. My village reached a heat index of 115F this past weekend. To reiterate, it’s hot. Since the heat takes a toll, the only other things more popular than naps are showers. To prep for my naps, I first take a shower. I don’t mean an exfoliating, conditioning, intense shower. I just basically rinse the sweat off. After this I cover myself in Prickly Heat powder. I prefer Prickly Heat because it has menthol in it which leaves a great tingly sensation, especially when standing in front of a fan. After I am covered in powder I put on weather appropriate clothing (I live alone so I do not have to adhere to the conservative dress that others might have to if they live with a Thai family). I then position my oscillating fan towards my bed and put it on the second speed (I find the third too aggressive to fall asleep to). Finally I put on my eye mask. I find this step essential because the Thai sun is strong and will peep through any curtains you might have.
Step Three: How long should I sleep?
If I do not have plans, I personally let my body decide how long it wants to sleep. I have no problem falling back to sleep for the night after a nap so if my body needs two hours, that’s what I let happen. Some people find they get grumpy if they nap for too long, which is totally understandable! You know your body best. However, just because you are sleeping does not mean a Thai person will not wake you up. Napping is a great excuse, but if a Thai person decides they need to wake you up, they will. There is no courtesy when it comes to resting here, so be prepared. Another thing that might wake you up is the heat.
Step Four: Waking up and post nap ritual.
Depending on the temperature, there’s a good chance you will wake up in a puddle of sweat. This means another shower and more powder if that’s your thing. I also like to put a bottle of water in the freezer before I nap so that when I wake up I have a nice cold beverage. When the weather isn’t brutal I like to do post nap yoga, I tend to already be relaxed from just waking up so it helps me maintain a zen state. If it’s too hot, there’s a good chance I just troll social media for a while before making dinner.
So there you have it, some tips for napping in Thailand. Obviously these are personal tips and can be altered to your situations (host families, daily schedule, etc). Good luck play sleeping!