Author Leo Benedictus has an article in the Guardian about inemuri and the contested state of naps in the modern Western workplace.
[I]nemuri means “being present while sleeping”, and indeed that describes the practice fairly literally as well, because inemuri is going to sleep in front of people while you are meant to be doing other things – which can, and often does, include sitting in a meeting room and listening to them speak.
Inemuri is not shameful, however, as it would be in the west, where sleeping on the job – let alone in a meeting – signals a loss of self-control, and therefore weakness. Instead, it is conventionally understood to mean that the sleeper is so dedicated to their work that they are momentarily exhausted by it. If carried out correctly an inemuri is an honourable kind of minor failure, like having no time to eat lunch, or 200 unanswered emails. It’s a commercial war wound to show off.
Of course, it has to be done correctly: not for too long, no diving under your desk, etc.. But still, there’s a healthy recognition that sometimes you just gotta get some rest. As Cambridge sociology Brigitte Steger explains,
If you are new in the company and have to show how actively you are involved, you cannot sleep. But if you are 40 or 50 years old and it is not directly your main topic, you can sleep. The higher up the social ladder you are, the more you can sleep.
There’s a big literature on neoliberalism and the “biopolitics” of work that talks about why sleep has become something that we (or our colleagues and employers) regard as a weakness; essentially, as businesses and markets come to operate 24/7, we come to believe that workers should operate the same way, and that with smartphones, enough caffeine, or newer stimulants, the ideal is not just to be always-on, but always-awake.
Which is completely crazy.
Personally, I think Churchill’s naps set the bar for measuring whether your work requires you to stay up for days on end. Essentially, if you’re doing something more urgent and important than saving Western civilization from Nazi barbarism, then yes, you should try to resist the body’s need for sleep. If you’re doing anything less urgent, then take a nap.