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.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - LIVING - By EMMA BROCKES By RHI­AN­NON LUCY COSSLETT

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

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