i Editor's Letter: Is sleep for wimps?


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The Independent Online


Poor Sir John Major. On top of everything else he had to contend with after succeeding Margaret Thatcher, there was the legend of her four hours’ sleep a night. He liked his eight. Many of you do.

In a fascinating BBC Online article, Matthew Parris, the brilliant Times columnist who was a Tory MP, claimed this took its toll, saying “I‘d often see the eyes of an exhausted woman”, and that it may have led to poor decisions.

The link between Thatcher’s indefatigability and not much kip popularised the 80s’ notion that sleep was for wimps. It was, and is, evident in the City and law to name but two, and pulling an all-nighter is common not just among lawyers and bankers closing a deal, but some creative industries like advertising when people work on a pitch.

I function on five or six hours with the odd top-up, and I’m not a post-prandial napper, unlike a former editor of mine. For much of my time editing i, I’ve arrived home at 11.15pm entirely wired, and then like to eat, have a glass or two and watch TV. We are all so different. One of my daughters leaps out of bed, the other could sleep through noon, and sometimes does. You may decide if my lack of sleep has led to mistakes!

But, I’ve never understood the bragging. Who wants to get into a cab to the airport at 6am with a driver who says “I’ve been on since 6 last night”? And, if you know anyone who works in the NHS, junior doctors’ hours are a national disgrace. Perhaps the EU wouldn’t be in such a mess if politicians didn’t sign all their treaties at 5am, the time when Mrs T allegedly rose to listen to Farming Today. Baa, Humbug!