YESTERDAY I did something dangerous in the afternoon and, likely as not, today I’ll do the same. Creature of habit, you see.
I defied the headline on the front of the Daily Express and went and had a nap anyway. I like my naps and have been having them for a long time.
Put some music on, read half a page in the newspaper, and off I go. This is mostly a weekend habit, compensation for on-and-off sleeping; it is one of life’s great pleasures, to me at least. And my father.
As a teenager, I remember my father going off to listen to music as cover for having a doze. He’d pulled the sliding doors to that divided the front and back rooms in our 1960s house, shut the other door as well, put on some Beethoven and fall asleep. So it’s a family tradition, although without the Beethoven on my part. Folk, jazz, a requiem perhaps – there always is music.
The headline on the front page of yesterday’s Daily Express read: “WHY A NAP IS BAD FOR YOU” while the sub-head warned: “40 winks during the day raises risk of heart attack.”
Well, lots of thing can raise the risk of a heart attack, including reading headlines on the front of the Daily Express. Often those headlines urge extreme caution about the weather – “UK WILL BE HOTTER THAN HELL” or perhaps “UK SET FOR ARCTIC WINTER”, alarmist weather reports being the thing. Armageddon is always just around the corner, although the other day the paper offered some variety by warning that the EU wanted to take our kettles away. I just had a look and ours is still there. Phew, just as well or else I wouldn’t be writing this with a cup of tea to hand.
The story in the Express was all to do with high blood pressure, with worries that a nap is not a restorative interlude but can in fact alter your blood pressure. “Some studies have reported it reduces blood pressure, while others have found it increases it,” the paper warned. Ah, I see. One of those sort of medical stories (red wine is good for you/bad for you/oh go on, I’ll have one anyway).
The report was based on research carried out by the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, which pooled data from nine previous studies with a total of 112,267 participants. This found that “those stealing forty winks in the middle of the day were between 13 and 19 per cent more likely to have hypertension”. Yet the researchers then looked at night-time naps by those who work night shifts and found no such link.
Make of that what you will. If you are the editor of the Daily Express, you might make a heart attack out of it. Does the editor of the Daily Express ever take a nap? Who knows; probably too busy.
There is so much advice, so many media panics, that in the end you just have to make your own way through the hazardous thicket of life.
So last night I had a bottle of beer and some red wine, today I shall do the same. This morning I went for a run, five or six miles in the May sunshine. After lunch I shall almost certainly stare death in the face and fall into a post prandial slumber.
One day the editor of the Daily Express may well turn out to have been right. But I shall keep on napping. That’s just the devil-may-care attitude you get from those of us who like to do something dangerous in the afternoon.