The forgotten art of sleeping
The desire to ‘lean in’ at work must, occasionally, be superseded by the need to keel over. a nap isn’t always bad.
SOME years ago, I worked in an office where the second floor bathroom had a shower room attached, with just enough floor space to accommodate a body. If the door was locked in the middle of the day, you knew someone had taken the filthy towels off the back of the door and laid them on the ground for a nap.
It was warm in there, like an airing cupboard, perfect for soothing a hangover, and after an hour on the floor you might emerge fighting fit with the sheen and consistency of a freshly steamed bun.
It was a liberal sort of office (all right, it was the Guardian), but still, such things are, we know, widely frowned upon as forms of degeneracy, laziness or the term favoured by more brutal management systems, “time-theft”.
Recently, a new word for the activity entered the lexicon, care of a front page story in the New York Times about police officers on duty doing things that they shouldn’t.
The list, seemingly compiled by an auto-generator of police cliches, included frequenting donut stores that gave them a discount and going to Irish bars. Worse than both, said police bosses – in fact, floating at the top of the Orwellian sounding “integrity monitoring list” – was something called “cooping”: parking the patrol car in a secluded area and stealing a crafty nap.
It’s not ideal, obviously, in that line of work, and hard to spin an upside to chasing a robber down the street while in the grip of sleep inertia, the period of disorientation experienced after you wake. But unlike eating sugary snacks, napping is, more generally, the subject of a vast and noble literature and A STUDY has revealed that people who are successful in their careers are more likely to be engaging in compulsive Internet use, and are at increasing risk of anxiety, depression and isolation as they obsessively log in during out-of-office hours. The results came as a surprise to the researchers who assumed it would be young people and the unemployed who were most at risk from Internet addiction.
As a teenager, I would stay up chatting on msn or updating my Teenopendiary with terrible poetry and homemade gifs until the early hours, while when I was on the dole I would be constantly refreshing my inbox in the hope that somebody, anybody, would throw me a bone.
It wasn’t, however, until I started working that my Internet use started to spiral out of control. The phrase “come to bed” will be familiar to Internet addicts everywhere, whether employed or not, but the need to be constantly plugged into the news took my addiction to another level, and I only just seem to have got a hold on it (though my darling boyfriend may disagree).
Here are my five top tips to maintain a healthy online life. I’m now in recovery. Maybe soon you will be too.
Schedule Internet time
It sounds deeply boring, I know, can be justified by advocates as uniquely brain boosting.
Where you draw the line on napping probably has to do with the era you were raised in, bookended at one extreme by Margaret Thatcher’s 1980s ethos and by Winston Churchill at the other. (There’s probably a class thing at work here, too; the hard graft and insecurity of the grocer’s daughter versus the more leisurely approach of the grandson of a duke).
Thatcher, famously, operated on but unless I’m on a pretty serious deadline, I now force myself to switch off at 5.45pm, which is when my partner gets in from work.
Making sure there’s a clear division between work time and home time, I realise, is the only way I will be able to maintain our relationship. If the only time your loved ones see your beautiful face is when it’s basked in the glow of a screen, this might be one to consider.
Accept that not every e-mail can be answered
A simple tip, but a revelation to me. Backed-up e-mail can be a terrifying prospect, but once you accept that it’s impossible to live as little as four hours sleep a night with, as far as we know, no midafternoon catch-up, while Churchill, just as famously, enjoyed a civilised 8am breakfast, lay down for a few hours in the late afternoon and held the nation together again until midnight.
As he said in the sort or expansive statement available to the wellrested:
“Nature has not intended mankind to work from eight in the morning until midnight without that refreshment of blessed oblivion which, even if it only lasts 20 minutes, is sufficient to renew all the vital forces.”
Napoleon apparently slept before battle. Thomas Edison has some rather stern views about oversleeping, but kept a cot in his office. JFK napped; George W Bush did, too but let’s not get into that. LBJ’s habit was to divide the day into two “shifts”, napping in the middle and effectively squeezing two work days out of one: from 8am-2pm, and then post-nap, from 4pm-2am. Napping in this way can be said to wipe the day clean.
Many of these people, of course, were frequently required to stay up all night, so that, as new mothers know better than the keenest world leader, catching up the next day was less a self-indulgence than a mechanical necessity. The desire to lean in must, occasionally, be superseded by the need to keel over.
And there are plenty of studies that point to the advantages, the most recent published this week by the University of Surrey, which shows that irregular sleep patterns cause a “profound disruption” at the genetic level, and explain why shift workers are often in poor health.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 30% a healthy life at the same time as answering each and every one, a surprising amount of time frees up.
As a seasoned procrastinator, I’ve developed a little e-mail label called “to reply”, for those messages which require eventual action on my part. Said action may be slow, but it acts as a reassuring comfort blanket.
Disable unnecessary notifications
The first thing I did when trying to cut down on my Internet use was to make sure it was unable to encroach on my day-to-day existence in the real world through the medium of iPhone notifications.
In other words, I ended the process by which Facebook updates, tweets and e-mail would come directly to my mobile. This was partly to prevent tweets accusing me of being a rubbish feminist/crap journalist/appalling human from hushing my buzz when I was having cocktails, but it can also be used for work purposes.
Anyone who needs to contact you urgently, for professional reasons, will probably have your phone number anyway. The same goes for friends and relations.
Go for a walk
A piece of advice from my mother, in the form of “make sure that you get out of the house every of Americans report “short sleep duration” of less than six hours a night, much of it accounted for by increasingly peripatetic work habits and linked, among other things, to a possibly heightened susceptibility to Alzheimer’s.
As with most things, those at the top have vastly more opportunity to dictate their own schedules than those at the bottom, while telling themselves they work harder than anyone. If you have the luxury of working at home, in the White House for example, you have more pockets of leisure in your day than, say, someone working on the cash register at Starbucks. (Or Amazon, where a worker’s every move is monitored by management.)
Cops on the beat, meanwhile, have to be creative. According to those interviewed by the New York Times, members of the NYPD have been known to crash out in movie theatres, “on piers” and parked outside cemeteries, but the best tactic, they say, is to stay on the move and nap in the passenger seat while your partner is driving.
It’s a question of degree; the successful nap is the quick re-energizer, or “caffeine nap”, which can be controlled by drinking a cup of coffee before lying down, so that roughly a quarter of an hour later, the caffeine hits your system like a biological alarm clock.
The unsuccessful nap is the one that rolls on for three hours, leaving you dazed, dribbling and incapable of thought. That said, I’d rather see a cop napping on duty than engaged in something that didn’t make the list, has no benefit whatsoever and makes my blood run cold every time I see it: the officer, head down, oblivious, wholly absorbed in his cellphone. — Guardian News & Media day”, but it can also apply to those in a work environment, or those who are embroiled in a particularly vehement political debate in the comment section.
If you are able to, getting a bit of fresh air helps you realise that the outside world still exists before you return to your activities with a renewed vigour (or, in the case of online arguments, 10 more rebuttals that you thought of on the way to the supermarket).
If you can’t get away, take a nap next to the radiator in the staff room, disappear to the loo for a moment longer than is polite or have a cuppa.
Remember, it’s only the Internet
It really doesn’t matter that much. It sounds cheesy, but spending time with people who care about you and make you howl with laughter is the best antidote to Internet addiction.
It’s hard to take things like social media seriously when friends are texting you going “lol at your twitter storm – pub?” Logging in slips further down your priority list as you realise that your absence does not mean the world will stop turning. I recently took a month-long hiatus from blogging and Twitter, and when I returned, all was much the same. It was that, or smash up the router – and it worked. — Guardian News & Media
Sweet sleep: Winston Churchill once said that “nature has not intended mankind to work from eight in the morning until midnight without that refreshment of blessed oblivion which, even if it only lasts 20 minutes, is sufficient to renew all the vital forces.” amen! — Filepic
Spending time with people who care about you and make you howl with laughter is the best antidote to Internet addiction, so put away those phones when you have to! — Filepic