I wish I were writing this in bed. Milton composed Paradise Lost in
bed. Winston Churchill, surrounded by a nest of pillows and aided by
brandy and cigars, wrote A History of the English Speaking Peoples in
bed. In that pre-Google age, when inspiration waned and facts wandered,
he solved the problem with a snort and a nap. His output was prodigious.
Alas, I am nowhere near my bed. I am sitting at a desk, hunched
over a keyboard, gazing at a screen. If these words have a wandering
quality, if my thoughts hit a lull and you suspect I have not so much
lost the plot as never possessed it, I know why. Unlike Messrs Milton
and Churchill, I’m not horizontal. I’m far from down-filled comfort,
I’ve had no nap and, like so many of my sex, I’m chronically and acutely
Stop yawning. This is serious. It’s also the
Big Cause on the horizon, as soon as we can shove the Leveson inquiry
and the Euro crisis aside for a while. In fact, sleep, the lack of, is
probably behind the major disasters of the day. If you don’t get enough
sleep, you do things such as come up with sub-prime mortgages, create
dodgy dossiers, hack into telephones. The most significant symptom of
fatigue is an inability to think of the consequences.
take my word for it. Someone much cleverer has become the Goose Down
Evangelical. Arianna Huffington, whose Huffington Post was recently
acquired by AOL, a deal that also saw her appointed president and
editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post Media Group, claims she wouldn’t
be where she is today without getting lots of sleep. Although she didn’t
sleep her way to the top, she insists she stays on top because she
sleeps. A lot. At least eight hours a night. And she takes naps.
her New York offices, she has created Napquest rooms where staff can
have a little snooze during the day. This isn’t simply 21st-century
enlightenment. Miss Huffington believes that it makes her journalists
happier and, therefore, more productive. Not sleeping on the job, but
sleeping at the job.
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The world may well be divided between those
who nap and those who nap not. I married a napper. He can nap sitting
up, but his preferred nap space is a sofa. He doesn’t take his shoes off
and the dog naps beside him. His is not the luxurious, sybaritic
surrender into darkness that one associates with the word siesta, but a
self-controlled doze. Fifteen minutes later, he pops back to life alert
Not me. Although I’ve managed to throw off most
vestiges of Puritan virtue, I can’t sink into unconsciousness in the
middle of the day. I lack the reliable inner clock to bring me back to
life in 15 minutes. I wake up an hour later feeling as if I’ve been
slipped a mickey finn and trudge around like a bewildered time-traveller
who can’t get her bearings.
However, I believe the time has come
to rethink sleeping in general and the nap in particular. It’s not only
the persuasiveness of Miss Huffington (who sold her business to AOL for
$315 million), but my own theories. Any day now, I expect to hear that
studies show that the epidemic of dementia stems from too little sleep.
politicians, lawyers and bankers brag about getting by on four hours of
sleep, but what if our brains are like car batteries, designed to
function only so many hours in a life time? You can recharge it with
holidays and long weekends, but, eventually, if you leave the lights on
too long, your only hope is to park on a slope and jump start it if you
want to get anywhere.
It’s a little late for me to sleep my way
to the top, but I’m going to try the eight-hours-a-night, plus a little
nap method of preserving what brain cells remain. I have much more to
say on the matter, but my pillow beckons.
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