The Surprising Thing about Burnout and Napping

By Megan Hills

There’s something rather surprising about burnout and napping. Any guesses? I could slowly roll out the red carpet and drum-roll the answer. But I’m too tired. So here it is: when you have burnout you can’t sleep.

Also, when burnt out, you tend to make wild generalisations.

Obviously you get SOME sleep, somewhere along the line. Otherwise you would end up in hospital where a person in blue pyjamas sticks something in your wrist. And before you can say ‘Hey! What are you doing?!’ you are hanging out with Hypnos and Morpheus. (Greek gods of sleep and dreams, respectively).

Also, when burnt out, you tend to ramble. So, back to the point at hand:

When burnt out, napping is like an oasis in the desert (with king-sized hammocks). You yearn for it. You ache for it. But you can’t nap. Even with all the right equipment in place (comfy lie down spot, bed socks, whale music). You’re lying there, staring at your lids, with all the best intentions. But it doesn’t happen. Why? Because your body is ‘wired tired’.

About your internal triangles

Did you know you have triangles in your body? Your adrenals are little triangular glands that sit on top of each kidney. By pushing yourself too hard, you are pushing these glands too hard, forcing them to pump out stress hormones to keep you going. Unfortunately when we run on these hormones all the time, you end up perpetually wired-tired. This lands you in the burnout zone. And those little triangles are ready to limp off your kidneys and find someone else who understands the meaning of ‘balanced lifestyle’.

“What if I can’t nap?”

Answer: Be okay with not sleeping. You keep lying down. Just be okay with not sleeping. Find peace with the idea that the regular rest is still beneficial vitally important. If you keep doing it, your body might just drop off into…mmm…zzzz…In the meantime, take the pressure off and enjoy the lie down. Ah, but there’s the rub…

“I’m not enjoying it!”

Lying down and not sleeping can be awful when wired-tired. Here are some things that could be happening:

  • Your thoughts are jumping around erratically, finding no resolve
  • Your skin is buzzing like you have just missed having a car accident (over and over again)
  • Your body is aching like you have the flu
  • You feel like you are trapped under an invisible piano
  • You feel like crying, but don’t have the energy
  • You are crying but your mind is saying you have no need to cry (which just does your head in)
  • When you lie down you have nothing to distract you from these things. It’s not enjoyable.

How to Enjoy the Lie Down

This exercise takes some practice, but for me it was the only way through:

  1. Create a quiet, comfy lie-down space
    And put a sign on the door ‘Siesta in Progress – Do not Disturb’.
  2. Set your alarm
    20-30mins – your call. If using your phone alarm, turn off the ring/vibrate.
  3. Lie down
    …and take a deep breath.
  4. Separate yourself
    Imagine yourself as separate from your mind and body.
  5. Rise above
    In your imagination, float up above yourself and look down at your body.
  6. Acknowledge what’s going on
    But don’t buy into it. Your thoughts and body are down there. You are up here.
  7. Focus on the floating
    Leave the thoughts and emotions ‘down there’. Move up into the sky if it helps.
  8. If negative thoughts come…
    let them pass through you and refocus on the floating. Don’t beat yourself up over negative thoughts.
  9. A peaceful place
    If having trouble ‘focusing on the floating’ then imagine yourself somewhere peaceful like floating on a lake or lying in a field of beautiful flowers – wherever suits you.
  10. Time to resume
    When the alarm goes off, give yourself some extra time to reconnect with your body. Take some slow breaths. Wiggle your toes. You may feel daunted about going back ‘out there’ but smile anyway. Feel the sensation of smiling. And know that you are okay.

Life isn’t perfect. And when you are in burnout, life is far from perfect. But you really are okay. If you can keep reminding your brain that you are okay, it will pass the message on to your body. And everyone (you, your mind and your body) will enjoy that nap – whether you sleep or not.

Megan Hills is an expert napper from way back, pre-burnout. So imagine her horror when she lay down to nap and sleep did not arrive. Learning to float above the horror, she began to value wakefulness more than ever before. Megan is also a cartoonist (on the sly). Visit her blog: