For some reason, How to Sleep Better was presented from what looked like a corporate cocktail party in a disused pumping station. Large crowds of the insomniac and sleep-disturbed wandered around, performing tests and poking at science museum displays which illustrated the connection between diet and poor sleep or the jangling effect of bedroom clutter. Robert Winston, meanwhile, lead us through several case histories: an air-hostess who could sleep anywhere but in her own bed, a woman whose snore was loud enough to shake off roof tiles, a Bodmin milk man who had just started on the night shift. All were offered practical advice for dealing with their problems and monitored to see if the solutions worked.
Perhaps unsurprisingly the snorer discovered that strapping a bra on back to front and stuffing the cups with tennis balls did not deliver quality shut-eye, though the dental brace which opened up her airway by brute force did give her and her husband the first peaceful night they'd had for years. The air-hostess's untidy bedroom got a makeover, banishing the bric-a-brac to one end of the room and converting the other end into a highly compact simulation of a boutique hotel, while the milkman took the decisive step of resigning from his job so that he could spend more time with his duvet.
Most touchingly of all, a former bomber-command man, staunchly insistent that his wretched insomnia had no connection with the almost certainly fatal consequences of snatching forty winks over the Ruhr, cautiously dipped his toe into behavioural therapy and was rewarded with much improved sleep. I felt considerably refreshed myself, too, once the final credits had woken me up again."Television tends to get people up and excited," said one expert, advising someone to banish the box from her bedroom. This may have been an oblique reference to a common source of poor sleep hygiene that went unmentioned in How to Sleep's "exclusive survey" on British sleeping habits - namely, staying up way past your bedtime to watch vaguely titillating rubbish. I have a suspicion that a few viewers over the past few nights will have said something along the lines of "I'll be up in a minute... just going to watch this Newsnight thing on Polish agricultural subsidies" and then settled down in front of Channel 4's series Sex in the 70s.
The series isn't rubbish at all, as it happens, as much social history as an excuse to show antique porn - and occasionally combining the two, as in a fetching still of Britain's very first dolphin-assisted striptease, a showstopping element of Paul Raymond's lavish stage show Royalty Folies. How they managed the bra-fasteners without opposable thumbs I can't imagine, but trying kept me awake into the small hours.