Sue Arnold: Where to power-nap for a dollar a minute

Every successful man, from Napoleon to MrsThatcher, has indulged in the practice
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The Independent Online

Before they did up the cavernous ground-floor ladies' powder room at the Savoy Hotel in London, there were a couple of dark brown velvet chaise longues in a corner on which you would occasionally come upon recumbent females with their eyes closed. Most of them weren't snoozing, they were being sick, having had too much to drink, but the old biddies who checked in the coats and refilled the cotton wool jars fussed over them with the same tenderness as if they had been ICU patients murmuring, "Would her ladyship care for another cushion, or a glass of iced water, perhaps."

You don't have to be titled to use a snooze room, but you do need a bit of cash - a dollar a minute is the going rate. To begin with, most people settle for 10 minutes, but once they've tried the experience and found how rewarding it is, they check in for at least an hour, usually after their flight. Snooze rooms are pretty basic: bed, table, chair, the decor soothing, the lights dimmable, and there's a choice of background music, or better still, silence. When I told my kids about this new development, one of them became very excited but it turned out he thought I had said schmooze rooms.

Needless to say, the American entrepreneur didn't call it snoozing. He called it power-napping, and every successful man from Napoleon to Churchill to Mrs Thatcher (who counts as one) indulged in the practice. Modern executives do it with their feet on the desk, my ex-husband could and often did fall asleep at the dinner table, but that wasn't power-napping, that was narcolepsy (dictionary definition: "short attacks of irresistible drowsiness") brought on, in his case, by an obsession with running marathons in the middle of the night, but that's another story.

It's only because most of us look so appalling when we are asleep that the idea of having designated places to grab a short nap when we're away from home or office is so appealing. You can always tell when people are pretending to be asleep. They just close their eyes and look peaceful, whereas if they really were asleep they would grunt and twitch and have their mouths open lopsidedly, emitting a steady stream of dribble. Unless, of course, they happen to be an enchanted princess in a fairy story, in which case, after 100 years they will still look sufficiently dry about the neck for a prince to want to kiss. That really is magic.

It was Churchill I think who advised, "after lunch sleep a while, after dinner walk a mile," a suggestion I wholeheartedly go along with, apart from walking a mile after dinner. Changing fashions in eating and drinking have made the post-lunch nap redundant because, unless it's a special occasion, no one really eats lunch any more or drinks anything stronger than fizzy water. It was only when I had lunch with my namesake from The Sun, Harry Arnold, its royal reporter in the Princess Di days, that I remembered how much booze those Fleet Street hacks could put away at lunchtime, especially the little ones.

Harry isn't much bigger than me. I was paying, by the way. We started with a couple of large gin and tonics followed by two bottles of wine. Nothing special, it was quantity rather than quality. And then, when I ordered coffee, Harry said: "You know something, I think I could just manage to squeeze in a large brandy with that," and indeed he could, handsomely, which is more than could be said for the way I felt. If there'd been a brown velvet chaise longue or better still a snooze room to hand, I would have collapsed into it, whereas Harry, unperturbed, sauntered off to do the splash about Fergie's latest canoodling.

Once, after a heavy lunch, I fell asleep interviewing a man from British Rail about the exciting initiatives they'd come up with for dealing with leaves on the line. It couldn't have been for very long, he was still talking about the same thing when I jerked awake. The main thing is, he didn't appear to notice, which doesn't say much for my interviewing skills. Textbooks reckon the ideal power nap last no longer than 15 minutes. After then it's straightforward sleep. Let's hope that American entrepreneur knows what he's doing.