Claire Black: How was Sleeping Beauty out for 100 years?

Scientists claim females need more kip than men due to waking hours spent multitasking. Picture: Getty
Scientists claim females need more kip than men due to waking hours spent multitasking. Picture: Getty
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FEW things perk me up as much as new research on sleep deprivation. It’s almost as good as a double espresso with a teaspoon of sugar in it. And this time I’m feeling extra frisky because it’s sleep stuff with an added twist of gender. Delightful.

It seems that a University of Surrey study has found that nearly a fifth of women have a bad night’s sleep, five days a week, compared with just eight per cent of men. Frankly, that’s enough to have me on my high horse, but it gets worse because not only are women sleeping less well than men, we actually need more sleep. Why? Because we use our brains more during the day.

Dr Jim Horne, director of the Sleep Research Centre at Loughborough University, reckons that women need an extra 20 minutes of sleep every day compared to men because of all that multitasking we do.

We are a bit stuffed when it comes to sleep. I realise that a casual glance at the state of the world suggests we’re stuffed when it comes to quite a lot of things, but whereas the Middle East and climate change and why men like Donald Trump appeal to the voting public – or anyone – feel like unwieldy topics to tackle, to nail sleep we just have to go to bed.

If only it was that simple. Two-thirds of the population get less than seven hours’ sleep a night. That means technically they are sleep-deprived. And that number is increasing. We spend less time sleeping than we ever have. And worse, the stuff we spend our waking hours doing makes getting shut-eye harder. Nearly 80 per cent of us use electronic gadgets right up until we try to sleep, blasting our eyes with blue light, which suppresses the production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin.

Hormones are part of the explanation as to why women aren’t sleeping as well as men. Menstruation and pregnancy impact on our sleep. But that’s not the whole story, because women also experience more insomnia, anxiety and depression, which also impact on the quality and quantity of our sleep.

We’ve got to get to grips with this. We all know that lack of sleep has an adverse effect on our health and psychological wellbeing. We all know, too, that in the short term we can all manage with a few less hours than we’d ideally like, but long-term lack of sleep increases our risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes.

But reading these words is like listening to white noise, and it pales into insignificance when presented with the opportunity to sit in bed on your laptop looking at people you don’t really like on Facebook. So let me make it personal. About a year ago I was bending down to put air in the tyres of my car. When I tried to stand up, I couldn’t. Well, I could, but I looked like the tin man from The Wizard of Oz before anyone had found the oil can.

When I finally got myself to the doctor and then to the massage therapist and then to the osteopath, they all said the same: you’re exhausted, you need more sleep. We call this “that time Claire turned into a statue” in my house now and although some people laugh, I don’t. I never want to get that tired again. Sleep, we really can’t live without it.

Just remember, it’s oil or nothing

I WENT to the supermarket the other night to buy olive oil. When I returned, my cotton tote was filled with bounty – I had anti-bacterial wipes (two for one), raspberries, a pack of 28 multicoloured felt tips (half price – who could resist?), a tube of 1,000mg Vitamin C dissolving tablets (I’m getting a cold) and a pint of milk. But olive oil? Nope. So how do I feel when I read that Benedict Cumberbatch will have learned 1,480 lines by the time he gets on stage as the Prince of Denmark this week at the Barbican in London? I feel like a feeble-brained mortal comparing myself to a super-brained polymath – he can act and remember things. I grant you that my shopping list doesn’t have quite the lyricism or emotional resonance of Hamlet’s soliloquies, but still. Apparently, the key to having a good memory is practice and repetition. I know some people say it’s about building those memory palaces, but frankly I just don’t have the will to do that, I’d rather go to the supermarket twice over. But if you see someone saying “olive oil” over and over as they walk the streets of Leith heading towards a supermarket, then wave by all means, but don’t talk to me as I’m bound to forget what I need to buy.

Being PC can be so ageing

YOU know when people say that it’s flattering when someone wolf whistles at you? Well, it’s not. It’s a form of street harassment and the people who do it should cease and desist immediately. I believe this to be true, but I also realise that such certainties wobble under the strains of everyday life. I also disparage the idea that being told you look younger than your age is a compliment. Let us end this tyranny of ageism! But then last night, when I was buying beer in another supermarket, the man who was serving me asked how old I was and against all my principles and my political convictions I felt chuffed. I even managed to hold on to the warm feeling as his face fell when he took the time to actually look at me. «