Louise O’Neill

Irish Examiner - Weekend - - Feature -

As I have men­tioned in this col­umn be­fore, I’ve com­man­deered one of the spare bed­rooms in my par­ents’ house as my writ­ing room. In the be­gin­ning of my ca­reer, those hal­cyon days from, oh, five years ago or so, I at least pre­tended that said room could be used by guests if needs be. We have now given up that pre­tence and as the ar­ray of writ­ing para­pher­na­lia con­tin­ues to ex­pand — com­puter, desk, er­go­dy­namic chair, dic­tio­nar­ies, ref­er­ence books, printer, shred­der, Hi­malayan salt lamp — my fa­ther sug­gested that we re­move the bed to make it less claus­tro­pho­bic. I dis­missed this idea, telling my par­ents that I was go­ing to move out very, very soon (a lie), and that I didn’t want to cause them any more has­sle (an­other lie).

Me: What if you have a huge in­flux of guests and sud­denly need an ex­tra bed? I’d hate if some­one had to sleep on the couch.

Mom: But you haven’t al­lowed any­one to even walk in­side that room for at least...

Me: ANY­way, let’s leave the bed there, ok?

The truth is that I don’t want to lose the bed in my writ­ing room be­cause I am a se­cret taker of many, many naps and I don’t want that to be taken away from me. Well, I say se­cret, but any­one who fol­lows me on Snapchat will be fa­mil­iar with my rosy-cheeked, post nap face, rant­ing about my dream in which the Han­son broth­ers wouldn’t let me join the band be­cause I re­fused to dye my hair blonde. (Yes, I am still bit­ter.)

My Snapchat goes a long way to com­bat the glossy im­pres­sion cre­ated by some of my other so­cial me­dia ac­counts that I lead a ter­ri­bly glam­ourous life of em­bassy re­cep­tions and par­ty­ing on yachts with Hol­ly­wood stars. Full disclosure — I spend most of my time in front of my lap­top wear­ing a bear dress­ing gown, star­ing long­ingly at the bed be­side me and won­der­ing when Nap Time can be­gin.

A part of my love/need for sies­tas through­out the day — my pre­ferred sched­ule would al­low for two 10 to 15 minute naps in the mid morn­ing and af­ter­noon — is due to the fact I awake early. I don’t set an alarm but I’m usu­ally up and out of bed by 5am, 5.30 at the very lat­est.

And while I’m not work­ing down a mine or sav­ing lives, writ­ing can be men­tally drain­ing. This is par­tic­u­larly true if I’m at the be­gin­ning of a project and still work­ing out the finer de­tails of plot and char­ac­ters or if I’m grap­pling with an es­pe­cially emo­tional scene. I am cur­rently edit­ing my third novel while si­mul­ta­ne­ously writ­ing my fourth, some­thing I have never at­tempted be­fore, and tak­ing a short sleep in be­tween each project serves as an ef­fec­tive palate cleanser thus I would ar­gue that a bed in my writ­ing room is an es­sen­tial tool for ca­reer longevity. (Please send all hate mail c/o the Irish Ex­am­iner.)

I think it’s a habit I have in­her­ited from my fa­ther, a man who takes a 10 minute nap ev­ery lunch time. There are some peo­ple who might ar­gue that he needs it more than I do, con­sid­er­ing his job is quite phys­i­cal and he spends 12 hours a day on his feet. To those peo­ple I would like to say ‘LA, LA, LA, I can’t hear you’ while stick­ing my fin­gers in my ears be­cause I am a ma­ture adult and who asked you any­way?

What’s most im­pres­sive about my fa­ther’s nap­ping is the ef­fi­ciency of it all. He lies down on the couch, sets his alarm for 10 min­utes, and falls asleep im­me­di­ately, ap­par­ently obliv­i­ous to my mother and me talk­ing, eat­ing, fill­ing the dish­washer, lis­ten­ing to a pod­cast about Don­ald Trump and ex­claim­ing loudly about what a ‘fuck­ing dis­grace’ he is. (Ok, that last one was just me.)

I, how­ever, re­quire op­ti­mum con­di­tions in or­der to drift off. I need a cool room — but not too cold — a pil­low of per­fect tem­per­a­ture and thick­ness, a thin throw to cover my­self with but not a du­vet, ob­vi­ously. I must also have com­plete si­lence as I find it im­pos­si­ble to sleep with other peo­ple within a one mile ra­dius of me with their sigh­ing and toss­ing and turn­ing and gen­er­ally just hav­ing the au­dac­ity to ex­ist in my pres­ence.

The ex­cep­tion to this rule is my friend Cat who sleeps as if she died in the mid­dle of the night and no one has found the body yet. The first time we went away to­gether for a week­end, I had to put my hand over her mouth at 3am to check if she was still breath­ing. Even be­fore I wrote this col­umn, I took to my bed like a Vic­to­rian lady who had just re­ceived news that her fa­ther had lost all of the fam­ily’s for­tune in a wrecked ship (is it just me, or did that hap­pen a lot?) and had a 20 minute nap in or­der to for­tify my­self. I woke up feel­ing re­freshed and en­thu­si­as­tic, ea­ger to get back to work. Be­cause, de­spite how lazy you might think I am, nap­ping is good for us. Stud­ies show that a short nap of 20 to 30 min­utes can help to im­prove per­for­mance, alert­ness, and mood; and fa­mous nap­pers in­clude such lu­mi­nar­ies as Win­ston Churchill, Al­bert Ein­stein, and John F Kennedy.

Com­pa­nies such as Google have in­stalled spe­cial sleep sta­tions called ‘En­er­gyPods’ which al­lows em­ploy­ees to nap dur­ing the day by shut­ting out ex­ter­nal noise and stim­u­lus and re­clin­ing in the per­fect po­si­tion to al­low op­ti­mum blood flow through the body. I pre­sume most work­places are a while off fol­low­ing suit, but I do think we should pay more at­ten­tion to our sleeping pat­terns.

As a na­tion, we are be­com­ing more and more sleep de­prived, with women in par­tic­u­lar re­port­ing they are suf­fer­ing with in­som­nia and bro­ken sleep. Isn’t it time that we re­claim naps from tod­dlers, old-age pen­sion­ers, and stoned stu­dents? And au­thors who work from home. Please don’t hate me.

‘I spend most of my time in front of my lap­top wear­ing a bear dress­ing gown, star­ing long­ingly at the bed and won­der­ing when nap time can be­gin

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