Napping way of life for some in Houston

HOUSTON Some listened intently, while others were sprawled out on the pews already in deep slumber.

Her message was a simple yet important one -- nap regularly or prepare for the upcoming "napture."

The first ever Southern Naptist Convention on Sunday at 14 Pews in the Heights area encouraged followers to properly care for their bodies by napping regularly, according to Emily Sloan, founder of the NAP Church.

Nap Affects Performance -- NAP for short -- started out as an art project for 36-year-old Sloan at the Art League of Houston in May 2010 and grew into the idea that Americans need naps regularly to perform better in their daily lives.

The art project allowed visitors to nap in the room Sloan had set up at the Art League. Sloan continued to meet at various locations with members of the community once a month to nap. "Before the Southern Naptist Convention, we kind of evolved into a church, because it became like this group about community naps," said Sloan. "We'd meet for Sunday naps, just because that was a good day to nap. It evolved from this performance group into a church."

A congregation of about 30 people participated in a meditation led by Stan Merrill of The Jung Center of Houston. A "naptism" ceremony followed with Sloan scattering feathers over the new members lying before her.

Sloan's initiative is straightforward: She set a "napture" deadline of Oct 21, 2011, to encourage people to work toward becoming better rested.

The group believes in the healing benefits of napping. "It helps increase safety on the job," she said. "Less accidents happen when people are less sleep deprived."

The lack of sleep can also make people more irritable, she said.

A recent study by the University of Michigan, published in the Sleep Medicine journal, found that children with behavioral problems were twice as like to show signs of sleep problems. Researchers concluded that sleepiness may impair the ability to control aggression.

Part of the reason why Americans are sleep deprived and opposed to taking naps may be because many consider it a sign of laziness. Sloan said another aim of the group was to remove any stigma to naps.

"There is a stigma with napping. Like it's a waste of time and it's unproductive versus helping people be more productive or more alert.

Autumn Knight, a local performing artist and a regular napper, participated in the meditation and naptism ceremony after her nap.

"Naps are like sweet nectar and taking this time out to nap made me think about different cultures that build napping into their culture and it made me think about why we don't make a formal place for that in our culture."

Carl Kruger came to the event out of curiosity and was interested in seeing how this religious satire would play out. He learned a valuable lesson from this play on religion.

People need to slow down, he said.

He had some good advice for those with excuses not to nap.

"In the United States when people are expected to work, especially in this economic environment definitely more than 40 hours, there's a time at like 2 p.m. when people are like `Oh God, there's nothing I can do to keep my eyes open.' Other countries have a siesta, but we don't, not in the United States," Kruger said. "Bring your lunch with you and eat in your cube and take a nap in your cube at lunch."

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