Sleeping too much

Aug 25th, 2012 | By | Category: Personal Columns

Do you know those stories where the fairy godmother appears in a puff of smoke or the genie appears from the bottle and asks, ‘what are your three wishes?’ I know what my first wish would be; not to need to sleep.

Imagine how much more of life could be lived if so many hours were not spent doing nothing, it would be like having life a third longer, but more than that, it would allow you to make far more of the present situations.

Living with an old uncle and aunt in west London in student days thirty years ago, my uncle, then in his 70s, was one of those people gifted with being able to need no more than a few hours’ sleep each night. Every night he would listen to the midnight news on the radio and then work in the kitchen before going off to bed at about one. By six o’clock, he was up and about again.

It is said that Mrs Thatcher required no more than four hours sleep each night. if that was really the case, it would have meant that she could have returned from evening engagements and worked until 2 am, before getting the rest necessary to allow her to be up at six, probably before many of her colleagues.

The passing years have allowed a capacity to develop for  early starts leaving home at 3.30 am twice in the summer, and even earlier a couple of times last year, departing for the airport at 1.30 am on one occasion. Those early hours are a great time to drive, when the only traffic is the occasional truck and when the airwaves are filled with programme repeats or mellow music. What has never developed is a capacity for late nights, which seems odd.

Why if it is possible to wake at 3.00 to be on the road at 3.30, is it not possible to stay up until 3.00 in the knowledge that a restful remainder of the night lies ahead?

Is there some body clock that refuses to be adjusted? Waking always at seven, no matter at what time I have gone to bed, including having arrived home at 5.00 after spending all night with a family in a hospital, there seems an inbuilt alarm clock; a programme that tells the brain it’s time to get out of bed and get on with things.

Perhaps there is also a closedown system, a mechanism that says it’s approaching midnight and it’s time to fall asleep, time to drift off into somnolence.

If only there were a fairy godmother, so much more could get done.


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