Nap Action Now!

Joe Lavin's Humor Column

Nap Action Now!

June 10, 2003

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It was a seemingly mundane news article from Reuters, but the headline jumped off the page: "Don't Lose the Snooze, Nap Activists Say." Wait a minute, I thought, there are nap activists? Why didn't my high school guidance counselor tell me about this job? As a devoted fan of sleep, I would think that someone could have notified me.

The article was about something called the Portuguese Association of Friends of the Siesta and their attempts to have Portugal's labor laws eased to allow for more naptime in the workday. Eighteen artists, writers, politicians, and others who can't hold down a real job formed the Association to promote the idea that naps are actually good for you and "not a vice of deadbeats." If you ask me, it sounds like a great organization. I thought seriously about joining, although I was a little worried about their use of the word "deadbeats." They seem to say it as if it's a bad thing.

I'm not entirely sure what nap activists do. Do they stage sleep-ins to promote their cause? If so, would anyone notice? Do they threaten people with naps? ("I warn you! Come any closer, and I'm going to sleep!") Perhaps they just go on strike a lot, but that can't be too effective. After all, it's probably a lot easier for people to cross a picket line if all the participants in it happen to be napping.

I don't suppose there's a lot of money in nap activism, but that's okay. It's important to pursue something you truly believe in, such as, in my case, sleeping. And, here in America, where many take a perverse pride in their lack of sleep, nap activism is sorely needed. The average American now sleeps 6.9 hours a night, which is down from 9 hours a night in 1910. Admittedly, back in 1910, there was no such thing as late night television, computer games, or Internet porn to keep people awake, but it's still quite a difference.

The siesta group believes that naps during the day can make us all healthier, and these don't have to be long naps either. According to an article by Giles Tremlett in The Guardian, "The association recommended the short, sharp siesta - a 20 minute nap that refreshes without plunging you into a state of torpor."

Of course, not everyone agrees. "I don't know what they have against torpor. Torpor can be a wonderful thing," said the President of the Portuguese Association of Friends of the Torpor. I'm looking to form an American Association of Friends of the Torpor, but so far, we really haven't gotten our act together. I'm not sure why.

According to the same article, the Association also believes that naps can be "a means of increasing productivity and reducing workplace accidents." Coincidentally enough, this is exactly the same reason that I sometimes like to sleep until one o'clock on weekends. Hey, increasing productivity! That's what I'm all about.

Still, could this all be true? The National Sleep Foundation claims that American companies lose $18 billion a year from loss of production due to the sleepiness of workers. Would a nap room in every office really make us a more productive nation? A nap break is certainly no worse than a cigarette break. And yet, if your workplace does put in a nap room, do you really want to be the first person to try it out?

"Sure, I'll have that second quarter report for you just as soon as I finish taking my nap, Sir."

Admittedly, this isn't really an issue for me. Even at home, I don't generally take siestas. I have enough trouble waking up once a day. If I took a siesta after lunch, chances are I would spend the entire afternoon asleep. It would be one big afternoon of torpor, and if there is anyone who is generally against that sort of thing, it's probably employers.

Somehow, I think the four-hour siesta is likely to be frowned upon.

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