THOUGH A daily siesta can increase productivity and relieve stress—"If I don't nap, I'll have a horrible game," says Warriors guard Jason Richardson—not everyone enjoys the practice. "That's like stuff you do when you're a little kid," says Richardson's teammate, for ward Ike Diogu. Still, for many professional athletes (especially NBA and NHL players) dozing for a spell between morning practices and evening games is part of their daily regimen. Says Kings defenseman Aaron Miller (who wears jersey number 3 and tends to set his afternoon alarm for 3:33), "I think about all the time I'd have if I didn't nap, but, then, everyone does it. It's a nice part of this profession."
HOOPSTERS AND pucksters agree that there is an art to napping—especially those who don't nod off quite so easily as SI PLAYERS's First Person subject Joe Johnson (headshot above soda cans). In a hotel room, says Sabres forward Adam Mair, the trick is to "cave it up. You want to get it as dark as possible as fast as possible. You get the drapes closed, bring tape from the rink to tape up the blinds, take a chair and push it up against the blinds to seal it, put your bags along the bottom [of the window] to make sure no light comes in." (Mair also avoids soda because caffeine interferes with his nap.)... Presnooze labor sometimes needs to be divided. Says Los Angeles's Miller, "When you have a roommate there are ground rules. Someone is in charge of the remote control. Someone is in charge of the drapes. Someone is in charge of the wake-up call. The longer you're with the guy, the easier it gets." Flyers defenseman Derian Hatcher (below), a proponent of "mandatory naps" who sleeps between 2:00 and 4:00 on game days, says that "on the road finding the right pillow is tough. There are big differences. I like medium. I don't like hard pillows, and I don't like the kind that sink all around you when you bury your head in them." Golden State's Richardson (below, number 23) is one of the few players who naps longer on the road ("I get like four or five hours," he says) than at home (about three hours).
HOW DO you get to sleep quickly in broad daylight? It helps, says Trail Blazers forward Raef LaFrentz, to have a routine. "I eat a quick second breakfast or lunch, watch a little TV, read the newspaper and lie down for an hour and a half at 1:30." Minnesota Wild defenseman Brent Burns buys DVDs of Beverly Hills 90210 to put himself to sleep. L.A. Kings forward Mike Cammalleri surfs the channels for golf. "I just fall asleep. I watch it, watch it, watch it and, then, in my mind, I'm putting somewhere." Bobcats forward Sean May's nap companion is a blankie decorated with choo-choo trains that he's been sleeping with since he got it from his mother, Debbie, as a child. May (above, on couch) is also precise in schedule. "You're trying to be out between one and three," he says. "If you sleep too much or too late, you'll act tired during the game. On the mornings of game days I'll make myself get up at eight or nine, force myself up so that I'm ready for a nap when it's time."
THE GREATEST obstacle to napping, of course, is noise. A snoring roommate is the most common source. Hatcher has some less-than-fond memories of former Stars teammate Shawn Chambers, who "never stopped snoring," except, presumably, when he was awake. "I threw pillows at him," says Hatcher. "Or I'd yell at him while hitting him with a pillow."... Another of the NHL's star snorers is Wild enforcer Derek Boogaard. "Boogey's awful," says his roommate, Burns. "You have to get to bed before he does because once he tries to go to sleep, he's asleep in two minutes and snoring in three. It's like lying next to a train station." Sighs Boogaard (above, head shot), who has been in six of Minnesota's seven fights this season, "That's what four or five broken noses will do."... Defenseman Kurtis Foster understands. "You don't want a roommate who snores," says Foster, "and I'm that person. I've woken up to pillows over the head, to a remote control being thrown at me. I've woken up to guys opening the drawer and closing it as hard as they can, almost like a shotgun sound."
BUT EVEN worse than snoring is the phone calls some players get in their hotel rooms from fans of opposing teams determined to wreak havoc on their naps. "When I played for the Rangers," says Kings goalie Dan Cloutier, "we had a six-on-six brawl against the Islanders [in 1998]. Every time we went to Long Island after that, during the pregame sleep [at the hotel] I'd get death threats on the phone."... Sabres goalie Martin Biron says French-Canadian players visiting in Montreal are particularly vulnerable to unwanted wake-up calls—"Everybody knows you're there and knows your name."... Minnesota forward Mark Parrish recalls an afternoon nap when "my phone rang and I woke up like it was a fire alarm. I didn't know what was going on. It was a fan wanting to screw up our routine. The worst is when you wake up and you think you're late. You shoot out of bed, your heart's racing, you start throwing your shoes on, thinking you're late for the bus. And you look at the clock and it's only 2:45. It takes awhile to settle back down." ... For all the challenges to successful napping, however, Biron says that once you get the knack, it's a tough habit to break. "You learn how to nap and learn how to do it good. Then when the season ends, you'll have a two-week period where, from 1:30 until four every afternoon, you'll hit a wall because your body is so used to taking a nap."
—Ike Diogu, Warriors forward