When I must have been about 3 or 4 I had a set routine: lunch, watch the Wombles and then a little sleep. No complaints with the first two but I really hated nap-time.
My hatred of napping continued as a child and I would always refuse to admit I was tired. If caught with my eyes closed and conscious enough to hear someone say I was asleep, I would fiercely retort ‘I’m awake’ and be angry at the suggestion it could possibly be otherwise!
It wasn’t until I started at University that I began to realise that far from being a bad thing, a little snooze was, actually, rather wonderful. Forget the two hours of seminars a day, cheap drinking and student discount card, University living taught me to appreciate the benefits of a short snooze.
For a time I worked for the Student Union’s technical crew. To be honest, I’ve no idea why they gave me a job as I knew less about technical issues then than I do now. I was probably hired because a) no-one else wanted the job and b) they thought a bit of gender balance might be good (the ratio of male to female staff when I worked there was probably something like 20:2).
Because I wasn’t very technical I’d be assigned the easy jobs such as carrying stuff and carefully coiling up electrical wires at the end of the night. There wasn’t much to be done during most events and when there were problems I wasn’t really the one to fix them. I’d take charge of club lighting and this wasn’t much of an effort when you could just set a variety of light effects and leave them on automatic.
In one room, the light controls were in the DJ box and on top of the DJ box was a storage space for different coloured drapes for stage backdrops. I discovered this space was perfect for napping and, with my earplugs in and a careful rearranging of the drapes, I could create a little nest for myself.
People often say that University isn’t just about the degree but the life skills you develop and take away with you and I’d certainly agree. I learnt how to sleep anywhere. Being able to catch up on a few ZZZs in the middle of a club night opened up a whole new world of sleep opportunities for me: the library, public transport, parties, anywhere.
However, sleep is like a drug. Once you get used to giving into temptation to have a little shut-eye as and when you want it, it actually becomes quite difficult to then ignore that temptation when it comes at inopportune times.
Like the first time you meet a good friend’s, now husband, then boyfriend but you are tired (and possibly quite drunk) so keep having toilet breaks to have 10 minutes snooze time in the cubicle.
In the post-university so-called real world I had a job where I only shared an office with one other person. On a regular basis I would wait until my colleague went for lunch and then, using my coat as a pillow, create a den for myself under my desk. I’d set my alarm for twenty minutes and have a refreshing powernap.
Sometimes I’d hear people come into the office but no-one ever walked around to my desk and discovered me. That could have been hard to explain. Since then I have always been able to find a suitable spot at work where a quick snooze could be an option.
My new office in Geneva has no suitable sleep spots whatsoever. My desk is far too exposed for a sleep under there, the staff room is the kitchen, there are no empty offices with armchairs where I could at least pretend I accidentally fell asleep (much less embarrassing than being caught in an under-desk-den) and the only sofa is in the corridor right next to reception. It’s terrible.
I thought it would be ok, tried telling myself that I was a grown up, that plenty of people go a whole day without napping, that I could just do what others do and replace sleep with coffee. And that did work for a time.
However, when I was ill a couple of weeks back an annoying side effect was extreme exhaustion, which, although lessened, continued to follow me when I returned back to the workplace after a week’s intermittent absence. Since then I have been craving siesta-time like never before.
By the time I’d realised how important a quick midday kip was I’d already quit my old job and country so there was no turning back. My only option is to convince everyone else to instate naptime for grown-ups.
In Switzerland, as I understand it, they have a very active kind of democracy. Anyone, with enough support, can call for the government to change the law via referenda, which happen every few months or so. Perhaps I should lobby Swiss friends to call for mandatory provision of sleep areas at work?
Failing that, maybe it’s not too late to switch careers to science and dedicate the rest of my working life to enabling species change so that I can become a cat.