Monday, March 20, 2017

In praise of sleep!

There's a place in the world for The West Wing. But boy-oh-boy, does it promote the common misconception I see around me that the brightest and best of us must get over our need for sleep!

Almost every episode about these ridiculously noble, witty and intelligent super-characters sees them working well into the night; arriving at the office before dawn to find they're the last in; discussing how long it is since they saw their bed; scheduling meetings for 11pm; functioning brilliantly on a massive sleep deficit.

I don't claim to be the calibre of White House senior staff ......but if I worked that way, I'd be dribbling and blacking out through my potentially-globally-destructive press conference.

Articles on how to fight fatigue are everywhere. It seems half the world is forever too tired. Lack of sleep is not the only reason: stress, lack of exercise, lack of variety in work can also make us weary. But we now know that in West Wing's America, 34.8% of people do not get the seven-hour minimum that they need. And yet many still buy into the idea that sleeping as much as possible, seeking out employment that allows us sufficient sleep, or prioritising sleep over keeping-up-with-the-Jones's is 'lazy'.

When we became parents of twins, obviously, there was sleep deprivation. I mean, I discovered levels of anger I never thought myself capable of! But I also saw lots of new mums striving away with ironing, cleaning, shopping and social commitments that were unenjoyable and unnecessary when they could have been sleeping. In conversation, there was competition about who had least sleep. I saw spouses (myself included) getting annoyed if the other one napped, as if a couple can tackle sleeplessness by doubling it.

In my case, as time went on, Rowan and Willow actually taught me how to nap. I was never good at it. I'm a bit scarred by the Protestant work ethic: my personality tends towards over-achievement. But as I napped out of pure necessity, I saw how beautiful it was. I am a better person on a nap! Sadly, they hardly ever nap now. But when they do, I still grab a bit of shut eye.

They say parenting is the hardest job you'll ever do. I don't know about that - I'm pretty sure it's easier than working for either Donald Trump, given his politics, or Jed Bartlett, given his lack of respect for catching zs.

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