The rest is history, but the odd catnap can be a boon for productivity

'Give me a break," Charlie, my hard-working economic forecaster, said. Charlie believes Napoleon got it all so wrong in the end because he stopped napping during the day in his later years and lost his ability to out-plan his enemies.

'Give me a break," Charlie, my hard-working economic forecaster, said. Charlie believes Napoleon got it all so wrong in the end because he stopped napping during the day in his later years and lost his ability to out-plan his enemies.

I was talking to former chief medical officer John Howarth this week. He said the medical profession needed extra time just to rest and reflect if it was to maintain high standards.

The present case-mix funding system for our hospitals doesn't help. It creates a huge incentive to cram in as many operations and procedures as possible because it's a bob-a-job system; a hip is so much, a knee another price but not a cent for reflection and planning.

"What's happening to the joint?" smirks Louise.

You'd think we would have learnt from some of our most inventive and productive people. When Henry Ford tried to visit his old mate Thomas Edison in the middle of the day, he was told Edison was asleep.

"I thought Tom didn't sleep much," the car boss complained.

"He doesn't. He just naps a lot," Edison's assistant replied.

Winston Churchill put it well as usual: "Nature has not intended mankind to work from eight in the morning until midnight without that refreshment of blessed oblivion which, even if it only lasts 20 minutes, is sufficient to renew all the vital forces."

"They tell me that Jackie Kennedy encouraged JFK to go to bed during the day," Louise says. "He used to eat his lunch in bed."

But despite Lyndon Johnson being a napper as well, the US seems to have lost its way in these matters in recent times.

This week, a Wall Street firm told its hyped up young executives to take the weekend off. My old mate Kerry Packer built plenty of rest and reflection into his life. It might have been on the polo fields of England, or taking a plunge at Randwick (Kerry wasn't all that keen on spas) or just lying barefoot on his office couch.

Harvard Medical School says "sleep loss, and even poor-quality sleep, can lead to an increase in errors at the workplace, decreased productivity, and accidents that cost both lives and resources".

It goes on to say: "Investigations of the grounding of the Exxon Valdez oil tanker, as well as the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger, have concluded that sleep deprivation also played a critical role in these accidents."

It's a worry, particularly as I am told that the 40-something female executives who we need so desperately in Australia are working extraordinarily long hours just to prove how effective they are.

The best ideas I've ever had about work came to me when I wasn't working. The opportunities flowing from the arrival of the digital age that threw the media business into turmoil dawned on me, in fact, at dawn. I was out for an early morning stroll when I suddenly realised the media world was about to be turned on its head and that under such circumstances being at the top could be a decided disadvantage. By the time I hit the office, I had a plan to ride the wave rather than be dumped by it.

Too many of us worry about taking a rest. We even say we don't want to "get caught napping". But this is a big mistake. Harvard Medical School's Dr Charles Czieler tells us that a week of inadequate sleep can leave us with same level of competence as if we had been awake for 24 hours.

To get the best out of our lives, our company and our nation, we need clear agile minds to plan our future and to be creative about it.

Great author Peter Carey and I worked together in advertising. As he turned out book after award-winning book, he told me he worked three hours a day, five days a week. The rest of it, in theory, he did nothing. But that wasn't the case at all, his mind never stopped.

So when is comes to working hours, less isn't just more, it can be everything.