For the past thirty years or so I have been living in guilt. Perhaps, shame or self-reproach are better words, all to do with my weekend nap.
I love a nap.
Indeed, any opportunity I can get, I nap.
In the past I have even napped at work – something that were I not a doctor, I would likely receive severe reprimand (I can remember walking-in on a night-shift nurse having a nap many years ago… that’s not something that happens much these days). (And, why shouldn’t it?).
So, yes, the nap.
For decades, the nap, or as he would term-it, Shlof, which is Yiddish from the German Schlaf for sleep was an integral part of my dad’s weekend. An hour or two in bed on Saturday afternoon, and, Bazinga he was back in action.
I seemed to have inherited this behaviour, which in and of itself is not necessarily bad, but when you see everyone else going out and about, busying themselves with shopping, gardening, walking, chores and so on, you feel that you shouldn’t be sleeping, you should be out there doing.
I worked-out the answer this morning while driving my son and his friend home from a rugby match. Stan, Rami’s friend is an early-bird, like me. He said that he usually wakes-up at six in the mornings, weekends or weekdays and has a couple of hours down-time before the rest of the household get going. He struggles to stay-up at night. Also, like me. My son is the opposite, he struggles to haul his tired body out of bed in the mornings.
It was then, thinking and calculating that I on average wake-up an hour earlier than everyone else in my household – dog walking and early getting-in to work are two of the main activities I use to fill the time. Yet, when you add this up, one hour a day, is five a week and over the course of the year, something in the region of 200 hours a year. I miss almost eight days of sleep a year compared to a normal person.
And, perhaps when you consider Early-Morning Waking, a cardinal symptom of depression and anxiety, you realise why in addition to all its other woes, depression makes you feel knackered.
And here is where my Shlof comes-into its own.
We all have different patterns of sleep.
In a recent study, examining the sleeping patterns of tribal people it was found that through the night there is always someone who is awake. Equally, there are always people who are genetically predisposed to stay-up late and those like me who are early-birds.
It is evolution.
We are there in the morning to tip off clansmen to the approaching Neanderthals, my buddies are up late, to watch for evening raids and, the sabre-tooth tiger will be interrupted by the on and off sleepers in the middle of the night. (This is in part a reason for dogs evolving alongside humans – to act as early warning systems).
And there it is.
It is my DNA.
I may nap, I may Shlof, but overall, I probably do some good from my much-needed earliness and overall, I may look like a lazy-bum, but my hours of sleep are the same or even possibly less than yours as you sit up late watching re-runs of Life on Mars.
A gute nakht.
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