Bring back the ‘nanna nap’
I remember years ago on a trip to France being struck by the fact that after lunch, wherever I happened to be, the population en masse would retire behind closed doors and shuttered windows for their mandatory afternoon snooze. What a delightful tradition I thought as I wandered the empty streets, lamenting that in my own country the nap has travelled the same path of extinction as the Tasmanian tiger and Pig-footed bandicoot.
Sadly, in Australia as in most western societies, only 20-25 percent of people nap no more than twice a week. Conversely in France and many other siesta cultures, it’s not uncommon for 80-90 percent of the population to grab some z’s almost daily.
Fortunately, nap advocate Thea O’Connor is all about normalising the nap in our time poor and work weary world, and to this end has produced a radio documentary on the subject.
Thea’s main argument for bringing back the nanna nap is simple: getting some shut-eye is good for us. Indeed just a 10 minute kip in the middle of the day, which is when our body temperature drops a tad and we start to feel drowsy, is all it takes to perk us up and enable us to face our in-trays and computers again.
Sleep deprivation is dangerous
On the other hand, continually pushing ourselves to keep going despite feeling knackered – shift workers can especially relate to this! – increases what’s known as our allostatic load, or physiological wear and tear.
According to GP and senior lecturer at Monash University, Craig Hassed, who presented at Happiness & Its Causes 2011, “overtaxing our activation system and not being able to stop and refuel and refresh effectively enough” wreaks havoc on our bodies.
Indeed, lack of sleep is associated with poor immunity, heart attacks and strokes, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and brain ageing. And of course, pushing on when we’re exhausted, especially if we’re driving or using dangerous machinery, can result in injury even death.
So why do we all find it so hard to slow down and stop during a typical day? Craig Hassed again: “Well, I think it’s pretty challenging for a range of reasons. One, we live in an environment that is becoming more and more … hyperkinetic, fast paced, [with] high demands [yet] less time and resources. So we’ve got an environment to struggle with a lot of the time, but also a sort of a conditioned patterned way of being that we’ve cultivated as well.
“So even when we’ve got time to stop, we find it very difficult to stop and we don’t tend to value stopping thinking it’s unproductive time when actually being able to stop when we need to may be the very thing that helps us to perform effectively in a sustainable way.”