Friday, 27 March 2009


The last two days have seen a lot of sleeping taking place. Whilst it is cold i blame this on the beta blockers. The appointment for the endoscopy for them to put the bandings in so i can come off the beta blockers is not till the end of April. I will email a question to see if i can come off them before.

Britons are the worst sleepers in Europe, claimed a survey last week, depicting a nation starved of sleep and facing a daily battle against red-eyed exhaustion.

The research, produced by the Future Foundation for health campaign Sleep Well Live Well, found that one in five of the population had less than seven hours sleep a night - and many of these tired souls reported feeling stressed and unhappy.

But how about looking at the question from another direction. If insufficient or disrupted sleep is bad for our health - then what would be the ingredients of a really good night's sleep? What makes a perfect sleep?

Dr Adrian Williams of the Sleep Disorders Centre at St Thomas's Hospital in London sets out a few ground rules.

Don't have any caffeine drinks after 2pm, exercise some time between 4pm and 7pm, have a milky drink and a bath before bedtime and try to exclude noise and light from the bedroom, recommends Dr Williams.

But sleep is a highly individual experience. Like our appetite for different types of food, we all have our own gourmet sleeps. Here are 10 to savour.

1. THE AFTERNOON NAP According to the wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill, the pearl of slumbers was the afternoon nap. "You must sleep some time between lunch and dinner, and no half measures. Take off your clothes and get into bed."

2. THE WEARY PARENT For the sleep-starved parent, it can feel as though they've given birth to a temperamental air-raid siren. Their sleep fantasy is nothing more elaborate than a night alone and a long luxurious morning when they can wake up undisturbed. Maybe they could warm the room with a bonfire of all those smug-faced sleep training manuals.

3. HOTEL SCHADENFREUDE There are few more succulent slices of sleep than the first morning of a holiday. No alarm clock, no rushing for the train, no playing hunt the other sock, no making sandwiches for the kids. What makes it even sweeter is the thought of everyone else back at work toiling over a hot computer.

4. THE GREAT OUTDOORS Sleeping outside has a particular grass-scented pleasure, whether it's drowsing on a sunny afternoon in the back garden, on the beach or in the park. Looking up at the clouds creates that feeling of getting back to nature.

Fresh-air sleeping has a long tradition. Alice Ravenhill, an Edwardian authority on rearing children, ordered that bedroom windows should be always fully open, apart from in the severest cold spells. In summer, she recommended sleeping on the porch.

Modern hotels say they pitch their optimum room temperature for sleeping at 18 degrees. It must have been all the other ones I've stayed in that are hotter than the Gobi desert, with the windows bolted shut.

5. COMFY PILLOW Pillows now come with almost as much science as hair conditioner. And there are versions with in-built speakers to play sleep-inducing sounds such as a heart beat or soothing music.

This would not have impressed the Elizabethan writer, William Harrison, who attacked the young men of the 1580s for being so soft that they used pillows to help them sleep. In his day, real men slept on wooden logs or hairy sacks. Allergenic or non-allergenic sack, sir?

6. KEPT IN THE DARK For a city dweller, used to a constant fog of light, it can be a rare treat to sleep in undisturbed treacly darkness. It's becoming more and more difficult to find. There are light polluted skies outside - and the insides of homes are overflowing with light-emitting gadgets. Kielder in Northumberland is claimed as having the darkest skies left in England.

7. SNEAKY CINEMA SNORING We've all been there. It's warm, it's dark, the mobile is switched off and you're watching a film or a play, and you feel an irresistible urge to close your eyes. It's been a long day and your body is crying out for a delicious moment of rest. The innovative Japanese have recognised a gap in the market and run "sleep concerts", in which rows and rows of exhausted salarymen cheerfully snore while the musicians play.

8. NIGHT MUSIC Who wouldn't enjoy being lulled to sleep by music? Or else the music is so dull that staying awake becomes impossible. Interpret this either way, but a study for the hotel chain Travelodge says that Coldplay and James Blunt are the most sleep-inducing musicians. Guests also like "unchallenging" reads, with the literary works of Jordan and David Beckham topping the sleep chart.

9. DREAMING OF FOOD The Christmas sleep, after a big dinner, is a classic of its kind. But different types of food have associations with inducing sleep. The NHS recommends eating bananas. Since the Romans, lettuce has been a persistent ingredient in sleep recipes. Less attractive is the use of dormouse fat, as used by the Elizabethans. The Victorians recommended top quality champagne as an insomnia cure. Even if you didn't get to sleep, it would still have been a good party.

10. WEEKEND LIE-IN Going home on Friday, the weekend stretches out alluringly. The first pleasure is the morning lie-in, that extra hour or so when everything seems possible. You lie there planning that great novel, dipping in and out of sleep. Nathaniel Hawthorne caught this perfectly: "You speculate on the luxury of wearing out a whole existence in bed, like an oyster in its shell, content with the sluggish ecstasy of inaction."

Maybe we're not bad at sleep, just out of practice.

BBC journalist Sean Coughlan writes a blog on the subject.

A copy of the financial times from the year 2020 has fallen through time, delivering tomorrow's news today Hindsight.

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