My new hero is Winston Churchill. Not just because he was the forceful and courageous leader of Great Britain during the bleakest hours of World War II. And not just because he seems to have been one of the few powerful politicians throughout history who did not cheat on his wife every time she went out of town. (Possibly his prodigious eating and drinking habits kept him distracted? Who knows?)
No, the main reason Winston Churchill is my new hero is because I recently discovered he was a world-class napper. Ol’ Winnie knew the value of a good mid-afternoon nap. Churchill is quoted as saying, “You must sleep sometime between lunch and dinner, and no halfway measures. Take off your clothes and get into bed. That's what I always do. Don’t think you will be doing less work because you sleep during the day. That’s a foolish notion held by people who have no imaginations. You will be able to accomplish more.”
I’ve been practicing that quote, recited with a gravelly British accent, in the hopes of one day mustering up the courage to say it to my coworkers.
Churchill was known to abruptly walk out of important cabinet meetings without a word. Those in attendance who didn’t know him well wondered where he went and when he might return. Those who did know him smirked and whispered, “Nap time for the Prime Minister.” An hour or two later Churchill would return to the meeting, refreshed and rejuvenated.
During those afternoon naps, just as he advised other people, Churchill would disrobe completely and put on a nightshirt. Occasionally he would awaken from his nap with a brilliant thought, and then charge into adjacent offices barking out instructions. If his nightshirt happened to flutter upward, heads of state and other political power brokers would get a full view of the Prime Minister’s bulbous British bum, in all of its pink glory. And he didn’t care a bit. Napping was that important to him.
During the war, Churchill famously gave strict orders that he was never to be awakened in the middle of the night, with one exception: only if Nazi forces were actually invading England. Anything short of that — like bombing raids or crises in far off battle theaters — could wait until morning. Now that’s my kind of guy. He knew the value of sleep.
Unfortunately, in our current fast-paced society, sleeping is considered a sign of laziness. Many people think naps are for bums (not the pink British ones, I mean). I’ve heard guys brag about how little sleep they get each night.
However, science finally is backing up Churchill’s (and my) point of view. A study came out a while ago, published by the Harvard School of Public Health, which showed that a person’s chances of having a fatal heart attack are reduced by 37-percent if he or she takes a 30-minute afternoon nap at least three times per week. Sounds good to me.
Churchill wasn’t exactly known for being a health nut. He never watched his cholesterol intake; he smoked cigars constantly; he drank like a fish; he never went jogging; and just look at some old photos: he certainly did not give a flying fig about having six pack abs. And yet, the man lived to be 90. I think it was the naps.
So, I’m going to find out if it’s OK to bring a cot into my office. I’ll explain to my coworkers, “I have nothing to offer this company but blood, toil, tears, sweat — and sleep!”
And I’ll promise not to disrobe and risk flashing my pink Irish bum to the rest of the office.