Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Sleepers, Awake! Wakers, Sleep!

Ours may be an indolent culture, but let it not be said we do not love our action figures. True, we're raising increasingly obese kids with x-box eyes and cheetoh lips; perhaps it is also true that heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and high blood pressure comprise the silent tsunami of our era here in the land of plenty, where exercise is clambering into the Hummer to go get a Big Mac and a double Slurpee.

But we adore action, and we are repelled by the merest suggestion that reflection, rest, or—God forgive—meditation may provide more for our lives than our bombs or our armies of occupation or our extreme sports.

This is one reason why science has been given such short shrift in Busherica: science has a troubling way of undermining all our most cherished assumptions about the inherent value of incessant action. It has demonstrated, time and again, that people who meditate are healthier, saner, and ironically, more active, than folks who cry for action from the couch in the living room or the television studio.

Now science is showing us something that our ancestors knew well: that sleep at midday is one of the greatest boons to health known to humankind:

A six-year Greek study found that those who took a 30-minute siesta at least three times a week had a 37% lower risk of heart-related death.

The researchers took into account ill health, age, and whether people were physically active.

Experts said napping might help people to relax, reducing their stress levels.

Now, go and tell your boss that you are nearly 40% less likely to fall ill, and that you can be far more productive if you're allowed to take a nap during the middle of the workday. Once he stops laughing, he'll tell you to go back to your desk and "get something done" (the most common phrase for action in corporate America—note the passive voice).

After all, how can you be "proactive" when you're sleeping? Where's the value proposition in that? Face it, nothing happens when you're asleep—let's go do a power lunch instead. What'll it be, cheesesteaks or burgers?

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