By Sandy Burgham
Recently, my nephew tried to explain Airbnb to my 90-year-old dad; how we laughed. But after initially assuming it was Dad’s lack of digital prowess that lead to his bewilderment, it transpired that it was merely because it was nothing new – it was simply called “renting out a room” in his day.
Increasingly I find that I too am viewing “modern life” as all a little unnecessary in my second act — a sign of wisdom, or growing older, depending on one’s age and viewpoint. For instance, I am not a cynic by nature and admit to have enthusiastically embraced new trends and great ideas with gusto. But the latest concept launched by Arianna Huffington, media mogul/millionaire entrepreneur, has really got me going.
Huffington is billing the universal imperative and biological impulse of sleeping as the next big thing. It of course makes sense that I’d follow her advice, since I’m of the generation that championed bottled water and bought the US$100 mindfulness app to help me not think. (I stopped short of going to those oxygen bars in Japan where you can buy fresh air in different flavours. Why hadn’t I thought of that – branded air! Genius.) But repackaging sleeping as a “revolution”? Are you serious? Call me 53-years-old, but do we really live in an age where we can profit from encouraging people to do what their bodies were designed to do?
Huffington is championing the idea of sleeping well at night and napping during the day to increase wellbeing. It’s the “nana nap”, rebranded. Living near to the office is pretty handy if I want to nip home to have a cup of tea and a quick lie down during work time. And I must say doing this is getting increasingly more attractive, and easier to do as I get older, helped by the heady blend of two factors that occur in your second act – changing hormones and not giving a shit what people think.
Of course, if I told my clients I was having a nana nap they’d be worried, put off perhaps that I was getting too old for the game. But if I rename it a “power nap” people are envious, and see it as a smart ritual for productivity. I have toyed with using the terminology ‘siesta’ to make it more gender-neutral, and then I’d also be applauded for being part of the European slow living movement.
As annoyed as I am that Huffington is profiting from promoting sleep as an original idea, with branded pillows and gift cards (!), she makes a valid point that a key roadblock to a good night’s sleep is our addiction to screens. “Take all devices and gently escort them out of the bedroom,” she says. Just as I was lecturing my 16-year-old on the perils of the constant texting from his bed when he should have been asleep, I realised I too had an addiction issue – the NZ Herald and Facebook apps on my phone. I was using them as a way of relaxing, like I used to with television when we bothered having one. One night, I found that 90 minutes had just flown by, thanks to mindless scrolling through both apps, darting from one unnecessary snippet to another.
The first step was recognising I had a problem. The second step was taking action — deleting the apps from my phone. Third, I asked for help: my husband was not to allow me to take screens to bed. It’s all helped, and I have only slipped up once, when he found I had sneaked his iPad into the bedroom while he was on another screen in another room. He gently lifted it from my hands and I felt a little ashamed.
So instead of screens to help me get to sleep — or not — I lay there the other night mentally listing all the trends I have subscribed to over the years. Walking (“powerwalking”), walking even faster (“jogging”), faster still (“running”), stretching (“yin yoga”), tidying up (“decluttering”), closing your eyes but remaining awake (“mindfulness”), and now closing your eyes and nodding off . . . “the sleep revolution”! Hmm, maybe I am simply a product of my time.
— Sandy Burgham
This post first appeared in The Hobson March, 2017