I’ve just found out some absolutely appalling news – I have something in common with Donald Trump. No, I don’t have a mandarin-hued fake tan and nor is my hair verging on the comical. Turns out The Donald and I both only exist on a few hours’ sleep a night.
I’ve probably already mentioned this – I have a terrible habit of repeating myself – but I’m an insomniac. This is both a blessing and a curse.
My boss loves it because I have extra hours in the day. My staff often chip me about the emails I send at 3.14am, but I’m awake, so I figure I may as well be productive. Sometimes I bake too.
On the downside it has driven former partners to the brink of insanity, with my Frusband once declaring it was like sharing a bed with a thrashing Harp seal due to my very cool body temperature and propensity for sleeping on my stomach with my arms down by side. Sexy huh?
As one of the five basic needs, the sleeping habits of some of the world’s leaders has been the subject of much interest.
Napoleon was once asked how many hours sleep was required, he supposedly said “Six for a man, seven for a woman and eight for a fool.” Margaret Thatcher was renowned for only sleeping four hours a night – same with Churchill during the war, although he was found of an afternoon nap in his jim-jams but fighting off the Fascists in Europe would be enough to make anyone tired I reckon. (*Sidebar: I went to the Cabinet War Rooms in London which were his HQ for the duration of the war – FASCINATING!!
It’s like a rabbit warren with tunnels and rooms everywhere. The personnel smoked all the time and there were no windows.)
I thought I’d try and get to the bottom of my problem by doing a sleep trial. Sounds like a good idea doesn’t it? They monitor your quality of sleep and then tell you if the amount you get it enough for you to function well on and if it’s not, what to do to improve your ‘sleep environment’.
It could be possible I am what is known as a “short sleeper”, which are those peeps who actually thrive on four-to- six hours of shut-eye. I thought I’d investigate further and it turns out it is a real thing with scientists estimating it’s only true for about 1% of the population.
Everyone else is just sleep-deprived (but probably THINKING they are short sleepers).
It’s a fairly new area of study but they think it’s linked to genetics. The home-based sleep trial I did meant being hooked up to machinery which would feed data straight back into the lab.
This consisted of electrodes stuck on my face, neck and chest, breathing tubes up my nose, a monitor on my finger AND a little machine thingy strapped around chest and waist. See Exhibit A. (photo).
I know what you’re thinking Dear Reader ‘How attractive!’ but what beggars belief is how the hell anyone actually gets any sleep to monitor while you have all of these cords, electrodes, tubes and monitors clipped, tapped and strapped on to you?!
When I do actually sleep it’s on my side or stomach, which was impossible with all this paraphernalia stuck on me. And then I my overactive imagination took over and I started to think “What if they are doing some weird brain experiments and calling it a sleep trial and they turn me into a flesh-eating Zombie?”
I look forward to the finding out the results, although interestingly on the survey you had to complete when you woke up the first question was ‘Please circle the quality of your sleep – excellent, good, average, poor, very poor.’
I thought, “Who the hell gets an excellent night’s with all this crap attached to them? Surely nobody who would ever need a sleep trial?” like my former flatmate Len, an Olympic champion sleeper, who once fell asleep on the 412 bus into the city STANDING UP.
My other flatmates and I would fight over not getting Len as our ‘fire buddy’ in case the house caught alight as she’d sleep through it.
When it comes to needing minimal sleep as a sign of being some kind of super human it’s impossible to go past The Man That Death Forgot – Keith Richards. The Rolling Stones legendary guitarist once stayed awake for nine days and when he did eventually fall asleep, he fell down so quickly that he broke his nose.
In his Life autobiography, Richards reckons that on average, he slept only two nights a week for many years of the Stones’ glory years.
“This means that I have been conscious for at least three lifetimes,” he calculated. Keith even claims he wrote the “Satisfaction” riff in his sleep. How very rock ‘n’ roll. I’m happy to be in good company.