HERE’S something I’ve learned: you don’t want to sleep with Mariella Frostrup.
I am not being indiscreet here, just passing on an under-the-duvet incident Mariella shares in her advice column in the Observer magazine.
“Driven to the edge of sanity by his snoring, I kicked my husband,” she says.
Mariella was answering a dilemma from a reader whose partner has “very different sleeping habits”.
When this flashed up on Facebook, I worried my wife had been writing to Mariella. Turning to the proper paper magazine, I find the letter is from a man who feels his new partner is ruining his sleep. “I need a good, solid, uninterrupted nine hours and an early night, otherwise I get extremely irritable,” he writes.
As a man much interrupted, my first thought was: does any grown-up person sleep for nine hours?
I am in the middle of a rough spell.
This one involves going to bed at around 11pm, reading for a while, and then lying there fidgeting for an hour or so listening to my wife breath (she’s an unreasonable woman), the blinds rattle, the cars go by, and heeding the thoughts that turn on at bedtime or perhaps just following the restless roll of my mind.
After a while I go downstairs to the spare room (checking first that we don’t have an Airbnb guest staying) and read again, then lie awake wondering if I can hear anything, read for a little longer, then with luck fall asleep for a few hours.
Sometimes I stay upstairs and switch on the small clip-on light to read, but that wakes my wife up occasionally, and anyway I have become trapped in this cycle of behaviour: feeling the answer lies in sleeping somewhere else.
Features about insomnia are common in newspapers – as numerous as those useless sheep you are supposed to count.
In today’s Guardian there is a long piece about the business of sleep, not in how to do it, but the people turning sleep into big business. There are apps and gizmos to be bought, technological mattresses, sleep trackers and even hi-tech pyjamas. That’s where I am going wrong: low-tech pyjamas.
The feature kicks off with a man called Rockwell Shah, the CEO of Pzizz, an app that is said to use dynamic audio to get you to “sleep at the push of a button”.
For Rockwell, bedtime is a “sleep experience” – and have you noticed how everything nowadays is a something or other experience. There’s probably an undertaker somewhere right now writing up about the benefits of his company’s “death experience”.
The feature points to a recent study in the US that 30% of Americans want a “sleep divorce” – which is to say their own sleeping space. Isn’t this just a modern label for something that always used to happen, at least for those comfortable enough to have their own bedroom?
Funnily enough, Mariella advises the man greedy for good sleep that he should consider having a spare room.
This separation by sleep is not a cause of pride to me. I’d dearly love to sort myself out, but nothing works, other than waiting for a better sleep pattern – one last lasts for a few nights, before the insomnia nudges back under the covers.
According to Dr Guy Meadows, clinical director of the Sleep School in London, “we are in a sleeplessness epidemic” He tells the Guardian: “Tiredness is the new norm.”
It is certainly my new norm – or, rather, my old norm. Meet the new norm – same as the old norm.
Margaret Thatcher used to boast that she needed very little sleep, and Donald Trump makes a similar claim – “I’m not a big sleeper, I like three hours, four hours…”
Another US president, Bill Clinton, used to get by on four to six hours of shuteye but now says: “Most of the mistakes I made, I made when I was too tired.”
“I did not have sex with that woman… hang on a minute, maybe I did but can’t remember because I was too knackered…”
Or something like that. Today’s blog was powered by an insufficiency of sleep, so I hope it makes sense.