Demonizing sleep like demonizing sex

Based on Anglo-Saxan and Old Norse mythology, Mara, a demon that plants itself on sleepers’ chests to cause unpleasant dreams and sometimes death would often have sex with men and women. Image from Van Winkle’s <>

Historically, sex was demonized by society. They attributed various myths to enforce fears that such acts were immoral and physically harmful to one’s health. According to a doctrine from medieval times, sex was prohibited so severely that, at best, husbands and wives could have four days for sex every month. In addition, sex was restricted to only night hours with no fondling or unusual positions. To top it all off, couples could be punished for 25 years of fasting and abstinence for practicing oral and/or anal sex.

Today, sleep and naps are demonized in a similar manner. In a world where we prioritize and glorify productivity, sleeping more and napping throughout the day are seen as lazy. Successful figures often attribute their success to sacrificing sleep hours for work, implying that people who get enough sleep aren’t reaching up to their full potential. To many, sleeping less is a status symbol, a pin to legitimize their success.

The reality is quite the contrary. Sleep research consistently proves that getting enough sleep is essential to peak our productivity levels. Sleep is our biological necessity and there is very little we can do to cheat the system.

“Sex within marriage was tolerated for reproductive purposes only and contraception banned because of its associations with pleasure. We know little of how these rules affected the lives of ordinary people, but the threat of damnation almost certainly transformed sex into activity loaded with fear and danger.”
From “A Brief Cultural History of Sex,” article from The Independent

So, is there a way to cheat the system? Perhaps.

Thomas Edison was arguably started the narrative people should sacrifice sleep for productivity. In fact, he believed that people could learn to forego sleep altogether. Through his enormous success with light bulbs, he continuously demonized sleep throughout his life. However, there was one secret he didn’t share to the public. He was a regular napper.

Not much of a napper? Maybe it’s time to reconsider. Photo Courtesy of Miratico <>

Like Edison, there are many historical figures who napped regularly. Some of the most famous nap enthusiasts include Benjamin Franklin, Napoleon Bonaparte, Albert Einstein, Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and JFK — just to name a few.

Yet, such facts are often ignored in our society.

Famous figures often highlight their short sleep hours during the night while ignoring the naps they take during the night time.

The one way to cheat the short sleep hours every day is naps. Again, the secret to their success is power-naps — taking a snooze within their working hours.

There are a plenty of people who claim that they don’t get enough sleep. In a sense, it’s not their fault. Our society has deeply ingrained the narrative and we are pressured to attribute our success to our short sleeping hours. Our world suggests that sleep is for the weak. We encourage workaholics and productivity. We must hide our napping spots even though so many workers do it everyday. Drinking coffee and coke is acceptable when research shows that it cannot replace our sleep time.

It’s time to change our narrative.

Getting more sleep hours is consistent to the hardworking narrative. Wanting more sleep is a sign that you are working hard and need the nourishment to carry you on. If anything, you need more of it.

It’s our time accept our sleep demons. Take a nap. It’s the right thing to do!

To learn more about how snoozing more (or less) can change your life for the better, preorder my book, The Art of Napping: The Sleeping Samurai and the Dormant Dragon, here.

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