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The Paranoid Man’s Guide to Falling Asleep at the Beach

Will I get swept out to sea? Will a runaway beach umbrella impale my sternum? Will a hermit crab crawl into my butthole?

We’ve all experienced the fact that long afternoons at the beach make us super sleepy — this is mostly to do with the sun suppressing your melatonin production, which helps control your daily cycle of sleeping and waking (the nine warm beers you pounded might possibly have contributed, too, who’s to say?) But the beach is also the perfect setting for a lovely long snooze: You’re warm, pleasantly buzzed and the ocean is whispering at your feet like a gigantic, wet ASMR video aimed specifically at sunbathers.

But then it happens: Right as you begin blissfully drifting off on the warm sand, the paranoia kicks in about what could happen to you when you’re asleep. Will you fry when the sun changes position? Will you get washed out to sea? Will a flying beach umbrella violently thrust itself into your eye socket? Will a hermit crab take up residence in your butthole and refuse to leave? 

And now you’re awake. Fuck.

But chillax, beach broseph: I, a lifelong and habitual beach-dweller, contacted Noel St. Hill, a veteran lifeguard with the Barbados National Conservation Commission, and with his advice, compiled a handy FAQ for your next nervous, towel-based siesta.

What if I fall asleep safely in the shade of my umbrella, but then the sun changes position and I get burned to a crisp?

Well, I don’t know if you heard, but there’s this cool invention called sunscreen — ring any bells? It contains chemicals that reflect the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays away from your skin (inorganic), or absorbs them so that your skin doesn’t (organic). Slather on sunblock that’s at least SPF 30 before you snooze, and you’ll be fine, provided you don’t sleep for more than two hours or so (since you’re supposed to reapply every two hours). If you forgot to bring some, welp, looks like it’s time to make some friends!

 What if someone steals my stuff while I’m having nappy-time, though? 

“I suggest that you always go to a beach that has supervision — not only by lifeguards, but with park rangers or police as well,” says St. Hill. “Each of them play an important role and work together to ensure your safety. Avoid areas with easy access from the street where unauthorized passersby might come across you. Also, don’t keep valuables like your wallet, your laptop or your phone in eyeshot of people while you’re sleeping. If you do, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a malicious thief who steals your stuff — it could be the average guy lounging nearby who sees an opportunity. So be sure to secure your stuff out of sight before you doze off.” 

Okay, stick my wallet and phone inside my shoe, got it. What if the tide zooms in unexpectedly and I get washed out to sea?

“It’s rare for waves to come in and crash down on people while they’re sleeping,” says St. Hill. “But if you’re going to take a nap, you obviously don’t want to do so very close to the shoreline. I’d have to say that anyone who does so may have had too much to drink. In any event, it’s my job to head over and instruct anyone sleeping too close to the shoreline to move further away.” So wake up, Sleeping Beauty, the sensible sober man says you’re being a doofus. 

What if I want to nap under the shade of a palm tree and a coconut drops on my head?

“Beach supervisors like myself or rangers will let you know if you’re sleeping under a tree that may have ripened coconuts that could fall off and hit you,” says St. Hill, reassuringly. “But the local government agencies that oversee the beaches are usually good about keeping the trees pruned of coconuts to reduce the risk of them falling off and hitting people.”

What if I get skewered by a runaway beach umbrella?

It’s… entirely plausible that this could happen! But outside of just not napping on particularly windy days, there’s really not much you can do beyond ensuring your own umbrella is properly secured.

What if — and just hear me out here — a hermit crab decides to take up residence in my anus?

“Believe it or not, beach crabs are actually non-threatening,” says St. Hill. “They only trouble you if you agitate them or corner them off. They’ll watch you first, and when you’re still or a safe distance away, they’ll move along. So it’s unlikely for a crab to come up and interfere with you while you’re sleeping, they’re just making sure you’re not in their way and they aren’t in yours. However, if you’re overly paranoid about them, I advise you sleep on a lounger.”

What if I irritate the lifeguard by asking a whole bunch of stupid, paranoid stuff?

Eh, don’t worry — it’s basically their job. “When you come to the beach, feel free to approach the lifeguards or rangers and ask questions,” says St. Hill. “I think it’s a great thing when patrons come up and ask me questions. And when they say, ‘Thank you’, I tell them, ‘No, thank you.’ After all, prevention is better than the cure, which makes my job easier. And so, it’s a very smart thing to do.”