A Brief History Of Nodding Off In London

By Ben Venables Last edited 8 months ago
A Brief History Of Nodding Off In London

Credit: Michael Toye from the Londonist Flickr pool.

The idea of an uninterrupted sleep is something Londoners can only daydream about.

After all, we perhaps have a harder time than most getting the sleep we need with those precious eight hours under attack. Attacks that may include the very roof we sleep under. Our converted Victorian housing — for example — means we can always hear what the upstairs neighbours are up to — and that's before the skulk of foxes starts rasping about the contents of our bins.

And yet, the eight hour sleep pattern is something of a modern habit beginning in the late 17th century. Before then people tended to sleep in two blocks separated by a relaxing period of wakefulness during the night. The advent of street lighting, a social life after dark and, later, the industrially regulated workday, condensed our sleep in to one efficient block. By the time Dickens could dream at his desk in the 19th century, the bimodel pattern of our ancestors had disappeared.

Charles Dickens's Dream by RW Buss

Today, with our work and social lives spewing from the light of handheld devices at all hours, the societal changes that started over three centuries ago have only become more pronounced. It's little wonder we're especially adept at hitting the snooze button whenever chance allows with a healthy nap — no-one takes a nap like a Londoner, and everyone seems to have a bizarre sleep incident to recount, however long or brief the tale.

Sleep story

I fell asleep on the barrier at a King Adora gig in Camden Water Rats in 2001.

— Emma

King Adora rocked their fan Emma to sleep | Photo: Jango.com

As Emma's companions no doubt found, taking a cat nap in an impossible place never ceases to be an amusing spectacle. As the images below testify, when the contributors of Londonist's Flickr pool are about, Londoners are always caught nodding.

Night and day caps

The curious correlation between naps and hats.

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Credit: Micro Sketch from the Londonist Flickr pool
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Credit: Deep Stoat from the Londonist Flickr pool
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Credit: Isiono from the Londonist Flickr pool
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Credit: Noir Chic from the Londonist Flickr pool
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Credit: Tezzer from the Londonist Flickr pool
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Credit: Syymza from the Londonist Flickr pool

Sleep story

I had a job interview in Knightsbridge but I arrived nervously early. So I went to have a sit in Hyde Park but soon fell asleep reading some notes. Unfortunately it was a peak pollen day and I woke up having an epic hay fever attack. I did make it to the interview but I didn't get the job. Was this down to hay fever prejudice? No. They just knew I was the kind of person who prepares for a major interview by falling asleep in a Royal Park.

— Tom

Pollen shower in Hyde Park Credit: Tony Park, from the Londonist Flickr pool

The great outdoors

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Credit: Lgeeography from the Londonist Flickr pool
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Credit: How About No from the Londonist Flickr pool
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Credit: Tom Bland from the Londonist Flickr pool
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Credit: Bilkeau from the Londonist Flickr pool
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Credit: Blink Of An Eye from the Londonist Flickr pool
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Credit: Lauri Hytti from the Londonist Flickr pool
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Credit: Torsten Reimer from the Londonist Flickr pool.

Sleep story: the thief who left a trail

I was still on the bus, but my Discman had gone.

Out of my ears and hanging over my pocket was the loose trail of the headphone cord. I wasn't asleep long either. It was a skilled and opportunistic theft. I didn't report it, I just saved up for a MiniDisc player.

— Robert

An imagined reunion of a Discman and headphones. Sadly for Robert, this never happened.

Transport tales

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It's OK for some. Credit: Che Burashka from the Londonist Flickr pool
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Credit: Magic Pea from the Londonist Flickr pool
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Credit: Lgeeography from the Londonist pool
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Credit: Scaphoid from the Londonist Flickr pool
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Look closely, this guy slept through the free paper war between London Lite and The London Paper. Credit: Chutney Bannister from the Londonist Flickr pool
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Facepalm Credit: Chutney Bannister from the Londonist Flickr pool
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Credit: Herschell from the Londonist Flickr pool

Last Updated 02 November 2016

Ronald L. Lyons

For thirty years in the business world, I was never one to nod off. My position as technical writer, with constant meetings, phone calls and deadlines, allowed no dreamy pleasure breaks. I invariably went at it with hammer and tongs for 8 to 10 hours straight. But now in my retirement, when I write I can enjoy a nod or two at odd times during the day. My system is to get up at four in the morning, write till six a.m., make the coffee and of course then nod off for a few minutes till my wife wakes up. I actually come up with some good ideas upon awakening, so for me it's actually production time all the time. Since dreaming in the latter part of the sleep cycle is important, those nods during the day are definitely part of my dream cycle. Like a Hollywood producer said, when asked how he directs, "I just close my eyes and dream, and there it is."
I thoroughly enjoyed the picture of Charles Dickens having a nod In his chair, by R.W. Buss. My philosophy is great minds need a break whenever they want.
R. L. Lyons