Of course, we all do it. Sleep, that is. For most of most nights in most cases. And – I speak here for all the grown-ups among us – we probably all worry about how much we’re not getting as well.
Obviously, sleep’s good for us, even if no one can really tell us exactly why. Equally obviously, to be deprived of sleep is bad for us. There’s a reason why it’s used as a torture – sorry, “extreme interrogation” – technique.
It makes you feel lousy. It clouds your judgement and slows your reaction times, as bad for your driving, apparently, as drinking too much. It causes irritability, anxiety, headaches and weight gain, because it makes us give in to a craving for the wrong kinds of food.
But for all that I have a sneaky feeling we may all be worrying about it just a little too much.
Do we really need to spend eight hours a night in the Land of Nod, as people keep telling us? That’s a whole third of your life unconscious. Don’t we have anything more interesting to do?
Well, yes, we do. Like watching yet another panel game or alleged reality show on the box. Or keeping up on Facebook and Instagram with all those good mates we’ve never met in the real world. Or knocking back another pint and another round of jokes with our actual flesh-and-blood mates.
Ah yes, but there’s the problem. Alcohol may knock you out, but it can disrupt your sleep too – and there’s nothing like a full bladder for waking you up in the wee small hours.
And telly, computer or smartphone all come with a double whammy. It can be hard to switch your mind off, to disconnect. And then there’s the blue tone in the light from the screen, which mimics the light of day and fools your brain into thinking it’s time to be up and doing, not closing down for the night.
Or so telly doc Michael Mosley was telling me recently, an hour or two after my bedtime.
His best piece of advice seemed to be to read a boring book. Something about sleep, perhaps. There do seem to be a lot out there – another sure sign of our fixation. Not all of them as worthy, heavy or usefully dull as “The Mystery of Sleep”, by Meir Kryger.
To be fair to the venerable doctor and professor, there’s quite a lot in the book – subtitled “Why a Good Night’s Rest is Vital to a Better, Healthier Life” – to get wakefully interested in. Especially if you’re a GP, a neurologist or a student of dreams.
The trouble is, the mystery referred to in the title remains just that – a mystery. And the best advice he offers is all the usual stuff. Plus not letting a dog or cat share your bedroom, and kicking your partner out into another room if they snore. Which seems harsh to me.
Oh, and not allowing yourself a long lie-in at weekends. Which does make a kind of sense, even if it seems a tad counterintuitive at first.
But eight hours a night? Really? They say that’s what people got in days or yore, but frankly I don’t believe it.
I haven’t had that much on a regular basis since I was a kid. And while I like my bed, I reckon you can get too hung up on how long you spend there.
In my experience nothing keeps you awake worse than worrying about not sleeping. That, and composing blog posts like this one in my head.