Carla Carlisle on the advantages of sleep

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

‘sleep deprived’.

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.

But don’t

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

and energetic.

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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