Falling asleep during the day when you are not a baby, an older person or very ill is basically a sin. This iron rule has been one of the central tenets of my life. The 11th commandment, if you will.
Napping is for some reason yoked inextricably in my mind to the phrase "moral turpitude" — which I found, aged 15, in one of the Victorian tomes I carried round in delusional certainty that they made me look clever and, therefore, alluring to boys (as if the two were linked).
The phrase pleased me so much, in fact, that it went straight into my grandly termed "commonplace book" or "WHSmith lined notepad", to use its correct title.
Intentionally switching off to sleep in the day was to my mind the very definition of moral turpitude, an "act or behaviour that gravely violates the sentiment or accepted standard of the community". We are meant to be awake — busily striving and doing self-improving things — during the day, and to sleep only at night. Those are the rules.
A year spent in pre-internet rural Spain proved a particular challenge to this rigid belief system. The entire village shut down for hours at lunchtime: nothing to do, no one to speak to and no shops in which to buy anything.
On the plus side, I read a lot of books and taught myself to cook while everyone else had a siesta. Striving! Then I slept while they had fun at nightclubs that didn't get lively until 2am.
My "no naps" rule went unchallenged and unexamined for decades — in the way things do when they get lodged in our minds and we don't remember they are there until someone knocks them loose. In this case, the trigger was a chance office chat about daytime sleeping.
One person of extraordinary energy and charisma, it turns out, likes to nap for two hours on weekend afternoons. Several other smart, morally upstanding and in no way slack or un-strivey colleagues said they would take any opportunity for 40 winks. They made it sound like moral degeneracy not to take the chance to shut one's eyes.
Momentum is on the sleepers' side. Napping has become fashionable, and is held up variously as a way to stay fit, sane and on top form at work.
Nap pods are a fixture at cool workplaces, you can nip out and rent a place to sleep for half an hour in some cities, and the US sleep health industry (a definition that includes anything aimed at helping to cure our collective chronic sleep deprivation) was estimated by McKinsey, the consultancy, to be worth $30bn-$40bn in 2017.
A friend who has spent time in Japan was intrigued with the way workers take naps at their desks. This tradition of inemuri (sleeping while present) is normal and shame-free in Japanese workplaces, where staff have cushions and rugs to make themselves comfortable for breaks during the long working day.
There is an admirable practicality to this, yet there is something so intimate about sleep that I couldn't imagine doing it myself.
The only colleague who wholeheartedly agrees with me that napping is no way to spend the afternoon is someone who refuses to nod off because of the "fear of missing out". Maybe the big napping divide lies not along a faultline of sin, or wimpiness, but of Fomo, that clever modern coinage for the complex emotional mash-up of insecurity and curiosity.
People either have permanent Fomo or they don't. From early childhood, I have had it, refusing even to sleep on long car journeys because it seemed important to see everything we passed (even if that was the suburbs of Derby). It was also important to hear everything, including my parents' bickering over map reading, the Barry Manilow cassette on endless loop and, most importantly, the possibility of eavesdropping on something adult, half understood.
We non-nappers will never change, however fashionable or healthy the practice becomes. Not voluntarily, anyway. My husband recently took me to see Kiss, the veteran rock band.
Amid the wonderful cacophony of loud music, pyrotechnics, screaming fans and general mayhem, I somehow, catastrophically, fell asleep for 20 minutes. And woke up refreshed and ready for more.
Written by: Isabel Berwick
© Financial Times