It’s a confusing time. The fields are starting to bloom, but it’s still freezing. The flu and colds have abated, but are still lingering. Paddy’s Day and Easter are only ten days apart. And don’t get me started on the election. By the time this paper is distributed, the elections will have been over for a week, but I doubt we’ll be any nearer to having a government. In fact, there may still be a counting centre somewhere in the country full of bleary eyed zombies recounting transfer votes for the nth time. So instead of trying to make sense of it — I’ve decided to take one out of the vaults for this month’s column. Hopefully you’ll enjoy it, and by next month will make more sense:
National Napping Day
I’ve decided to warn you all of a grave danger. This danger is real. It is insidious, but it is really easy to ward off. In fact you can stop it dead in its tracks. All you have to do is get comfy. Close your eyes — and have a nap.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen. This danger that I warn of is the DEATH OF NAPPING.
You may laugh. You may say: “I can’t sleep during the day!” But this is deadly serious. It is spreading like a plague across this green and fertile Island, this little piece of paradise filled with gentle grassy slopes, soft warm dunes and leafy glens where babbling brooks trip, tinkling over stones and birds sing above. This land that offers views of blue, blue skies and white puffy clouds to the horizontally inclined is being wasted. This land was made for napping and yet the nap is going the way of the great Irish Elk. Already the best nap, the most beneficial has almost disappeared; I’m talking about sleeping in the sun. For thousands of years, in any culture, the representation of human contentment and bliss was the image of the workman, the shepherdess, the weary traveller, taking a nap in the sun. Yet when was the last time you saw someone lying under a tree, his hat perched on his nose having a nap? When was the last time you slept in the sun? Maybe you’re like me. Maybe you’re one of the lucky ones. I last slept in the sun only yesterday. It’s easy for me. I was born in Spain; land of the nap. In Spain we have such respect for the nap that it has its own sacred spot in the day: siesta time.
I know some of you have this idea that once awake you can’t get back to sleep until the next night, but I’m here to tell you that you’re wrong. Get comfy. Put your feet up. (I find that putting a newspaper over my head is very conducive to sleep.) Close your eyes. Take a few long breaths and before you know it — presto — you’re napping.
Sleep deprivation goes hand in hand with modern western society. The drive to succeed does not include a nap. This is not, as you may think, due to people sleeping less at night. By and large people are sleeping as much at night as they used to. However, they are sleeping less during the day. This is not good. Sleep deprivation makes us cranky, slows our brains, makes us age faster and makes us gain weight.
Everyone knows that when a child starts getting whingey, the best thing to do is to put them down for a nap. It’s a good thing to remember the next time your husband gets cranky or your wife snaps your head off. It will probably make them more creative as well. The best way to solve a problem, or to get the creative juices flowing, is to have a nap. Research has shown that napping increases productivity, and most importantly — creativity.
As you get older the quality of sleep often suffers: this has been directly linked to lowered melatonin. It’s a vicious circle because the older you get the less you sleep and the less you sleep the older you get (not to mention the older you look). You produce melatonin by being in the sun — therefore sleeping often, and in the sun, is a way of beating the ageing process (not forgetting the sunscreen of course to avoid excessive wrinkles).
Sleeping also affects your hormones. It lowers your leptin, which gives you that feeling of fullness after eating, and increases your ghrelin, which stimulates appetite. Sleep deprivation lowers your leptin and increases your ghrelin. To make matters worse, sleep deprivation also interferes with the body’s ability to metabolise sugars, so it stores it as fat instead. In short: the less you nap the more weight you gain.
So don’t say you “sneaked” a nap, or “stole” a nap. Don’t “get caught” napping. Reclaim your right to sleep in the sun! You have the perfect opportunity coming up. I’m declaring a National Napping Day on Sunday, March 27. That’s because we will lose an hour when the clocks go forward. Are you going to let them steal that hour? Or are you going to take back what is rightfully yours and have a nap?
Can I have a witness?