Sleep evangelist? Hmmm...that's a pretty hefty name for something most of us would give up our quilts for on a cold night. Yet there's the amazing Arianna Huffington being globally huzzahed to for being the 'Saviour of Slumber'. Hey, she's stolen my thunder. I've been there, done that, schmoozed with the snooze for as long as I can remember.
It's perhaps a lash back to my over-disciplined childhood in what was still Calcutta. We had a family newspaper which was put together, printed and distributed out of the rambling old house which was also our home. Since my parents went to their desks almost as soon as they awoke and worked almost till it was time for bed. So no one could have accused them of being gross layabouts if they allowed themselves to get off their butts and allow themselves a lie-down after lunch or any time during the day. Nap? I might as well have told my martinet dad that I wanted to be a hippie when I grew up. Yawn in his presence during daylight, and he'd bristle disapprovingly, 'its a sign of sheer laziness!'
No wonder then, that as soon as I escaped from that stern wide-open eye, I took the first opportunity to shut it. In my early working years, it wasn't possible to stretch out for a snooze. But I carefully nurtured my wonderful -- and envied -- ability to doze off in, well, the blink of an eye. On a bus through Mumbai's honking traffic, aided by the ride helpfully prolonged by the inevitable snarls. In a tucked away corner of the office. On a shaded bench in the sylvan grounds of the JJ School of Art next door to our Times of India's own heritage building opposite the frenetic Central Railway terminus, CST.
In those days it was an indulgence. Perhaps part of the defiant independence of leaving home and making it on my own in a city on the other side of the subcontinent. And a planet away in its work culture from Kolkata's self applauding intellectualism. Ironic but true. In indolent Cal I wasn't allowed to indulge my inborn inclination. But in Mumbai, the city that never sleeps, I napped to my fullest.
When I graduated to having my own office, I slyly slipped in a sofa. I mean, if I was in a position that merited a room of my own, it implied that people, outsiders or in, would need a comfortable place to sit. No one in administration needed to know the dual, if not true, role I had intended for that settee. Now, editors' offices are not like the corner one of a CEO or even that of the Advertising Manager, easily mistaken for the presidential suite at a luxe hotel. So how would said item of furniture fulfil its insidious agenda?
No problem. Dad may have frowned on naps, but his own genes saved my day. Like him, I'm a small built person. And so, though it would have been a very coiled foetal position should he have deigned to curl up on a sofa in the middle of the day, it was okay for me who reaches the five-foot mark only at full stretch. Okay, it wasn't going to be a near erotic, luxuriating loll, but what the hell, I wasn't in a movie role. All I needed was a quick power nap.
I have managed to have at least a two-seater in every office I've occupied, and it has happily served its covert purpose. I have managed a nap on it all these years. The duration varies, but I have now managed to condense it to 15 mins: sink into deep slumber, and wake up refreshed. The alarm on my cell phone is always set, not to ensure that I wake up on time, but to ensure that I don't stay awake worrying that I won't.
I'm a lark not an owl so the quick nap saved me when, as editor of Bombay Times, I had to schmooze serially at Mumbai's notoriously late night (in fact early morning) parties. Now when I'm off this sequinned treadmill, it's still important. And a habit ingrained and indispensable to my wellbeing. Indeed to my sanity.
So here's my variation to the Huffington formula for success. If 'a good night's sleep' isn't always possible, a power nap any available time is an effective enough alternative.
Trust me. Even a short shut-eye is a wake up call to efficient working.