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I called The Nap Ministry Hotline that encourages breaks and here’s what happened

October 8, 2022, 11:00 AM UTC
Portrait of an African American woman resting on the sofa.
The Nap Ministry examines the liberating power of naps.
Olelole—Getty Images

There are two things you should know about me: I will do (almost) anything for a story and I will gladly welcome any excuse to take a nap. Which is how I found myself stretched out on my sofa on a Friday afternoon dialing into The Nap Ministry Hotline.

The Nap Ministry was founded in 2016 by theologian, activist and teaching artist Tricia Hersey, who is known affectionately as The Nap Bishop, and it examines the liberating power of naps. I’d first become aware of the organization during a leadership retreat for Black women in 2019 and had been following faithfully ever since, which is why I had to call into 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 opened the windows to let in the fall breeze, trimmed the wick on my almond croissant candle from Target before lighting it and laid down on my sofa underneath a chunky blanket crocheted by one of my good friends. I slipped in my AirPods, dialed 1-833-LUV-NAPS (588-6277) and closed my eyes.

I was greeted by a recording of the The Nap Ministry founder Tricia Hersey, affectionately known as The Nap Bishop. “We can bend time when we rest and we slow down,” she says and over the course of the next five minutes, we did exactly that.

During the call, Hersey recited “The Past . . . the Present . . . the Future” by world-renowned poet Nikki Giovanni, instructing us to lay down and close our eyes as she did so. And I was happy to oblige. Hersey also read an excerpt from Womanist Theological Ethics: A Reader, a collection written by nine African American women across theological disciplines. Specifically, she quoted the chapter three by Emilie M. Townes, “Ethics as an Art of Doing the Work Our Souls Must Have,” about liberation and freedom. 

“Rest is a liberation practice,” Hersey says afterward. “To imagine a new world that centers liberation, rest is our foundation.”

Before learning about The Nap Ministry, I thought rest was something I had to earn. I didn’t believe it was my birthright as a Black woman, as Hersey has preached to her legions of social media followers. But as the saying goes, when you know better, you do better. 

As such, I’ve been striving to listen to my body and incorporate rest into my daily life guilt-free–whether it’s allowing myself to take a midday power nap during my lunch break; opting for restorative yoga instead of a more intense workout; or curling up on the sofa with a good romance novel (shoutout to Jasmine Guillory). 

As Hersey wrote in a recent Instagram post, “Exhaustion will not save us. Rest will.” And there’s science to back up her claims. The Sleep Foundation says that napping can “restore alertness, enhance performance, and reduce mistakes and accidents.” A NASA study on military pilots and astronauts found that a 10- to 20–minute power nap improved performance by 34% and alertness by up to 54%.

But that’s not the point of the Nap Ministry. It’s not about resting to be more productive. It’s about resting as liberation and reparations for Black people in particular, and as the antithesis to capitalism. Sometimes we need permission to rest, which is where the Nap Ministry 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 noticed less tension in my shoulders and more of a resolve to finish my work for the day. I also felt proud of myself for taking time to put the work aside and do nothing, if only for five minutes or so.

“You can rest,” Hersey says at the end of the call. “We will rest, please get rest today.”

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