To sleep or not to sleep
Ranjita Biswas | @twfindia | 09 Dec 2020
To sleep or not to sleep
The Hamlet-like dilemma would seem trivial compared to the one of the Shakespearean hero, but it is relevant to me anyway. Simply said, is it wrong to catch a nap during the day? These days for the advancing years perhaps, while lying horizontal on the sofa after lunch and scouring the newspaper, my eyes want to go for a shut-eye. Slowly, the words become blurred and the most enticing thing in the world seems to be, what else, a snooze. After coming back to earth with a start, I immediately feel guilty. Waste of time, I rebuke myself, when I should have finished a chapter of the new book, I slept!

But in the same newspaper I come across reports on the  new expert theory that a nap of less than 30 minutes’ duration during the day promotes wakefulness and enhances performance and learning ability. Ah! The endorsement I needed. I also remember my journey to  Spain and how the siesta is taken so  seriously, as also in our neighbourhood with Bengali-owned stalls closed till, say 4 o’clock. Wise decision!


But  then into this world came the IT revolution, the mobile set’s preponderance over other activities and in the process, launched a seamless office-like situation in our lives. Forty winks? Are you kidding,  the new generation counters.


Actually, this dilemma nudged me after reading about the work style of some of the most important people on earth today- the scientists behind the Pfizer- BioNTech vaccine, developed in record time considering the usual time it takes to develop  an anti- virus vaccine. Britain is the first country in the world to approve use of this Covid-19 vaccine and now Margaret Keenan, about to be 91, already has got the first jab bringing hope to a battered world.


But look behind the scene at the people who have made it possible. Dr Katalin Kariko, of Hungarian origin and now in the USA, who has been working on developing mRNA technology, the ground stone of the Pfizer vaccine, from 1995 onwards, even shrugging off a threat from cancer. She worked on her theory when she did not have many takers for her revolutionary idea and the university where she was working even demoted her. Did she take a nap during the day? Unlikely, I surmise.


And then those behind the other arm of the vaccine- Germany’s BioNTech. Founder scientists Ugur Sahin and wife Ozlem Tureci of Turkish origin, billionaires now, still live in a modest apartment and do not own a car and cycle to their lab nearby. Some years they worked without a break throughout, including the New Year’s Day. Even on the day they got married they went straight to the lab afterwards. No time to sleep!


Ditto for Albert Bourla, Pfizer’s CEO and their solid support, who has worked relentlessly, day in and day out, refusing government funds to avoid interference. 


Of course, we are mere mortals and cannot measure up to their standards.


So I have decided to take a leaf out of the advice of the sleep- advocates, but also keep in mind that you can survive if that little indulgence needs to be tweaked as the occasion demands.


Here’s hoping that the dilemma would leave me alone now.