Everybody knows about The Slump; that point in the day when you slam into a wall of tiredness. One minute you are perfectly fine and the next you are drunk with fatigue or behaving like a toddler, tempted to tantrum. And then the panic – how will you get everything done: the meetings, the reports, the dinners, the laundry? Couldn’t you just lie down for a little while? No one would ask anything of you. Shhh.
Well, at the end of this month you can do exactly that by being part of The Lying Down Club. Powered by The Midult, of which I am a co-founder, it is an antidote to our state of relentless exhaustion; a movement (or rather lack of it) backed by John Lewis and inspired by the bit at the end of yoga when you are left prone on the mat, possibly asleep. In the safety of the bedding department in the JL flagship store in Oxford Street, London, the Lying Down Club will be offering a non-negotiable napping opportunity – between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. for two evenings at the end of November.
You will be given a dressing gown and slippers to get comfortable, as well as noise-cancelling headphones and eye masks to shut everything and everyone out. There will be Elemis Spa experts on hand, in case a shoulder or hand massage will help ease you into a relaxed state, virtual reality goggles if you fancy a trip to the Maldives or alternatively, we promise to just leave you the hell alone. No one asking you a quick question or for a quick decision. Just a little bit of space to charge your brain’s battery.
So why are we doing this? Well, if you are like us, you have experienced some sort of sleep crisis recently: a daily, or rather nightly, battle. You have become an expert in sleep maths – like when you are out to dinner and you look at your phone and calculate that if it’s 9:30 p.m. now and you’re on the main course, then you should be away by 10:30 p.m., which means home by 11 p.m., bed by 11:20 p.m. and lights off at 11:30 p.m. and if you actually do make it through without waking up at 5 a.m., then you’ll be on the track to having an OK day.
“I give myself a non-negotiable eight-hour sleep opportunity every night,” chimes Professor Matthew Walker, author of Why We Sleep and director of the Center for Sleep Research in Berkeley, California. For him, this means no alcohol in the evening and no caffeine after 2 p.m. Because, for Walker, sleep is the key to everything.
Indeed, only yesterday, scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) were reported to have found that parts of your tired brain actually turn themselves off to rest, even though you are awake. Dr Itzhak Fried, a professor of neurosurgery, discovered that after periods of sleep deprivation, “select regions of the patients’ brains were dozing, causing mental lapses, while the rest of the brain was awake and running as usual”. The effect of this, said Fried, could prevent a tired driver noticing a pedestrian stepping in front of a car. Along with a heightened risk of depression and obesity. As for memory? Forget it.
Which is why Walker and co are not prepared to compromise on sleep. But if a top-notch, restful eight hours is not happening for you – why not seize every nap-portunity? Einstein believed in the power of the nap, as did Thomas Edison, Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher and Arianna Huffington, the founder of The Huffington Post.
Prof Walker is pro-napping, too. He says a 60-minute kip can have extraordinary benefits for the day, from “dissipating negative moods, boosting positive moods and lowering levels of anxiety”. Naps, he believes, can “reboot learning capacity, cement things you have learned – basically a nap hits the ‘save’ button in your brain”.
There are also serious physical health benefits – one Harvard University study showed that when the siesta culture changed in Greece in the Nineties and people began to phase out naps, there was a marked rise in cardiovascular disease. The study concluded that those Greeks who continued to nap three or more times a week had a 37 per cent lower risk of dying from heart disease.
Neuroscientist and leadership coach Dr Tara Swart is also a nap advocate. Her mission is to help individuals achieve peak brain performance though neuroscience, and she is very enthusiastic about companies, such as Google, that have sleep rooms at work.
“By encouraging their employees to take naps, they hope these workers will work with greater efficiency and creativity for longer,” says Dr Swart. “They will also be less likely to suffer from mental or physical fatigue, boosting overall productivity and quality of work.”
So, with all this in mind, come down and join us. It’s time to get totally tucked up.
Napology know your naps
The refresher nap A 40-minute wonder that actually leaves you refreshed; the nap that leaves your face looking pillowy-fresh, not imprinted with pillow-lines. (This nap is a rarity. Never give up hope though.)
The sofa nap You’ve managed to find a use for your grocery box vegetables and cooked some kind of casserole thing. You are on the sofa and in the blink of an eye it is 3 a.m. and there is dribble and you are cold.
The fear nap “Maybe a nap will help,” you say, throbbing with anxiety about a meeting/finances/death. And you lie there, your eyes scrunched together while every single particle in your system is tense. Forty-three terrible minutes pass and you get up and have a shower. This is no way relaxing, but hey, you closed your eyes for 43 minutes.
The ‘been hit by a brick’ nap You are eating the soup/having a chat/doing the admin when you suddenly realise you have no option but to lie down. No option at all. You just have to lie down, on top of the bed with all your clothes on. The last thing you think before you pass out is ‘oh no! I’ve got my contacts in’ but you’ve been hit by the brick and it’s game over.
The hangover nap Ooh, the relief of slipping into cool sheets when you’ve got a raging hangover. Yes, everything is spinning. Yes, you will feel worse when you wake up and will have to eat your body weight in carbs. But right now it’s just you and the bed. And the shame spiral that leads you straight into a fear nap (see above).