Tales from under the MPs' sheets

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After years of tabloid revelations about their nocturnal activities, MPs have finally revealed what they really do in bed - slip between the pages of a good book.

In a survey of 61 MPs by the Sleep Council, nearly half said reading helped them relax for sleep, 15 per cent watched television, 7 per cent claimed they talked to their wife, and one (Labour) MP said counting Tories losing their seats did the trick. None mentioned sex.

The ultimate luxury at bedtime for Labour's Joe Ashton was "a dark room and quiet, having been to see Sheffield Wednesday win, followed by two or three pints and fish and chips". Tory Peter Butler opted for white cotton sheets, a view of a warm ocean and good company - "my wife, of course!". Liberal Democrat Alan Beith chose the bed in the Speaker's state room in the Commons.

The Sleep Council, which promotes healthy sleeping, asked the MPs how much sleep they expected to get during the run-up to 1 May. More than one-third said six hours sleep or less a night - a figure that increased to more than half among Liberal Democrat MP's.

When the MPs were asked what they most looked forward to after the election, more than 40 per cent chose a good night's sleep and a lie-in. Surprisingly, one-quarter expected to be in bed by midnight on election night, though whether through confidence, defeatism or sheer exhaustion was not clear.