3:40 p.m. I consider getting out of bed. I reject the notion as being unduly vigorous. I read and smoke a bit more. Fran Lebowitz, "Metropolitan Life"

Fran Lebowitz, heroine to some, clearly has her priorities in order about one of life's finer offerings, lollying around in bed. In addition to reading and smoking, other casual bedfellows share many common uses for the bed for everyday life.

Conception, birth, illness and inevitable death all happen in bed and, according to statistics, an alarming number of murders. Beds are multi-functional: They act as a temporary repository for coat storage during a party. They are a good place to snack or picnic or read Sunday papers. One might hopelessly toss and turn in bed all night if he or she has the misfortune to be an insomniac. And we all remember having bedtime stories read to us by loving parents.

Breakfast in bed is a popular custom which gets overworked around Mother's Day, and if you're superstitious, you certainly don't want to get out on the wrong side of bed.

Throughout history, however, more imaginative types have brought the art of lollying in bed to greater heights -- or depths -- depending on your point of view. Greeks reportedly had orgies in bed; the Romans, banquets. Louis the XIV would have been considered a bedaholic, owning an estimated 413.

Though it is commonly known that Lyndon Johnson occasionally had a penchant for presidential meetings in the bathroom and Ronald Reagan presumably has a large "do not disturb" sign on his bedroom door, Nelson Rockefeller must have had grand designs for his vice presidential bedchamber (which he never did use) when he commissioned artist Max Ernst's "Apparatus for Dreaming" at a cost of $35,000.

One man's dreams are, however, another's workplace, and the arts and humanities have flourished over the years, thanks to--you got it--inspiration in bed. Elizabeth Barrett Browning poems and John Milton's "Paradise Lost" were conceived in bed. Origin of the Species by Charles Darwin came from bed, and the French painter Fantin-Latour, clad in overcoat, scarf, top hat and gloves for warmth, painted in bed.

Work is still simmering in chambers, and a host of eclectic individualists or those who just enjoy the comforts of reclining continues. For them, the bed means business.

It should come as a surprise to absolutely nobody that Hugh Hefner, the reigning King of the Bedroom, is also the King of the Bed. Though, according to his publicist, His Highness still hasn't completed designing his Los Angeles bedroom, his former residence at the Playboy Mansion in Chicago made bedroom history. The bed that writer Tom Wolfe proclaimed "the biggest roundest bed in the history of the world," surely should get some kind of appropriate appointment in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Eight and a half feet in diameter, The Bed rotates a full 360 degrees, each angle offering a different feature: Hef could face a TV console, focus on a conversation area, catch the glow of embers from a fireplace, or use a flat area there for a desk, bar or dining table. From the bed, switches control the built-in vibrator, phones, stereo and a video-tape recorder. Pajama-clad, the Playboy emperor has reportedly worked nonstop for 72 hours at a clip in these quarters. And, why not?

Helen Gurley Brown, editor of Cosmopolitan magazine and a self-proclaimed "workaholic," has been working in bed "ever since I started working at Cosmo, which is now 15 years . . . I do work hard during the week, therefore, maybe the reason I spend so much time in bed is that I'm just plain tired.

"I work in bed nearly all day Saturday and all day Sunday," Brown says. "That's my sacrosanct time to edit manuscripts and to write anything that I have to write." She likes the bedroom because, with the pink decor, king-size bed and red lacquer accents, "it's pretty and very pleasurable. I have a really terrific view of Central Park and three exposures, so it's not a bad place to work in. I can't imagine a more wonderful arrangement."

Seventh Avenue chic also sometimes comes from bed. "Some people like to work at a desk," says Louis Dell'Olio, a designer for Ann Klein, "but I think a lot of people like to work in bed." Dell'Olio likes the latter and has a high-tech control center emanating from the bed so that everything he needs is never further than a click away. Working in a cashmere robe, "usually in the evening when its quiet and I'm home," he has set up the bedroom area in one big open space in a loft. "I never have to move out of my bed once I'm in it."

The bed itself is "a three-quarter," and the extras are close at hand: "All the light switches are controlled from my bed, the TV is controlled from near my bed, my telephone is near my bed and I have a table that rolls out near my bed with all my art supplies and sketching supplies in it. Plus, it's an electrical bed, so the head goes up and the feet go up so I don't have to prop myself up to sketch."

The magic work formula for Dell'Olio is very clear-cut. "You sketch wherever you're most comfortable. I like sketching at home, and the most comfortable place to do it is in my bed."

A lucky few manage to make money from mattresses. Comedy team Jane Meadows and Steve Allen do commercials for Restonic, one featuring Allen in the classic store window situation, in his pajamas. As he prepares for lights out, he enlists help from a gawking crowd to "turn out the street lights when you leave."

Serta has "perfect sleepers," first Joey Heatherton, now Susan Anton. But a woman named Debbie, a nurse from Boston, was a real perfect sleeper; she got paid to sleep, $150 a week. Answering a radio ad looking for people who could sleep days, Debbie "just called up to get more information and suddenly found myself sleeping in the Museum of Science in Boston from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m."

For 2 1/2 weeks, she participated in Hoffmann-La Roche's "Dream Stage" exhibit on the sleeping brain at the museum. Accustomed to working the 11 p.m.-7 a.m. shift in the hospital and then sleeping days, she was the ideal applicant for the job classified as "sleeper." The only stipulation for the job was "that I could sleep no place but there."

Sleep she did. After getting hooked up to an EEG machine so that others could observe her sleeping brain activity reflected on the ceiling, she slept while the public watched.

Debbie did her assignment well, but didn't get any subsequent offers for similar work. "I don't think there's much call for this, actually," she concedes."