TIREDNESS is becoming a national epidemic, with a third of us plagued by insomnia to some degree.
The NHS recommends getting seven-to-nine hours of kip a night.
But domestic goddess Nigella Lawson, 58, said last week she gets by with two-hour bursts – although “not many of them”. Telly host Claudia Winkleman, 46, meanwhile, naps TWICE A DAY.
So is there a “perfect” number of hours to sleep? Three women with very different sleep patterns tell Clare O’Reilly how it works for them.
‘I get up at 5am to do laundry’
WEDDING videographer Anna Somma, 36, of Jersey, says becoming a mum to Lucca, 22 months, has made her used to getting only five hours sleep a night. Anna says:
“I’ve always been a night owl but I used to love sleeping in.
“That all changed when I had my son Lucca in December of 2016. Like most first-time mums, I was exhausted constantly but while his sleep pattern has become regular and he goes comfortably through the night, he’s left me with a new way of sleeping which works really well for me.
“I’m a single mum and while I have childcare for some days so I can work, I know I won’t get this time back again so I want to spend as much of it as I can with him.
“When he goes to bed around 8pm I start work and work until around midnight or later.
“Then I naturally wake at around 5am. By the time he wakes up around 7.30am I’ve usually planned and prepared dinner, got a load of washing on and tidied up.
“Trying to get anything done with a toddler around is impossible but my sleep patterns mean I get work and housework done and can then spend time with him if he’s not at nursery.
“I’ve always liked late nights but now I love early mornings. Seeing the sun come up and the day get light puts me in a really good place mentally, too.
“If I’m away with work and he’s not with me I still keep the same pattern, I’ll just get up early and go for a run or do some exercise, or take a long walk where I am.
“Some Sundays I’ll lay in and wait for him to wake up but I get bored.
“And if I’m not working or doing housework, I’ll lay in bed with my laptop and do some life admin.
“I can’t imagine going back to sleeping in late, it’d feel like I’d wasted the day too much.
It’s thanks to Lucca I’m in this sleep pattern but I wouldn’t have it any other way now as it suits us just fine.”
‘I go to bed at midnight, wake at 3am and start working’
BETH McLoughlin, 38, a marketing executive, survives on three hours a night – and even changed her working hours to fit her sleep schedule. Beth, who is single, of Hampton, South West London, says: “Even when I was a baby, I didn’t sleep well. My mum says she would always find me standing up in my cot instead of napping.
“I’ve always fought long periods of sleep and only seemed to nap. I thought a state of perpetual tiredness was what everyone felt.
“At university, I was more or less nocturnal. I’d stay up late either going out with friends, studying or watching movies until the sun started to come up and then I’d sleep until around lunchtime if I didn’t have lectures.
“When I graduated and had to do a nine-to-five type job, I tried to adapt. It was brutal changing sleep patterns. I’d force myself into bed at 11pm only to still be lying there awake at 2am.
“I’d be aware of the minutes and hours ticking by but because everyone else needed more hours I thought I did too. I did everything I could to get into the same sleep patterns as my colleagues.
“I tried sleeping pills and I still practise a lot of the recommended things, such as not drinking coffee after lunch and switching off screens at night. But in my thirties I gave up trying to force myself into a regular sleep pattern. It’s just something my body doesn’t want to do.
“So now I embrace the weird schedule I’m in. I asked to start working from home so that I could be productive in a way that suits my body clock.
“I’ve come to terms with the fact I still find it harder to function during the day than I do at night.
“I go to bed around midnight or 1am and when I wake around 3am I just get up and start working.
“It can be rewarding to have finished a project before anyone else is even up.
“Then I’ll take a power nap of usually no more than 15 minutes at lunchtime and in the afternoon. I find these are usually enough to keep me going.
“My sleep fluctuates because of hormones. Usually at that time of the month, there are a few nights where I barely sleep at all, then a night or two when I catch up.
“I know the amount of sleep I get isn’t traditional, but it’s good to know I’m not the only one. I think Nigella raises a serious point. We’re not all cut out to get eight or nine hours a night.
“I wasted years trying to sleep like everyone else, but now I’ve realised that my way works for me.”
Kip it in the family
SLEEP expert Dr Neil Stanley suggests how much shut eye people need depends on their genes.
He says: “Just as people can be tall or short, some people need nine hours’ sleep and others can thrive on much less.
“The key is not the number of hours you sleep but how you feel when you are awake. Don’t get caught up on the amount.
“People see eating right as something to prioritise but sleep is just as important.
“Make sure your bedroom is dark, quiet, cool and comfortable, with good ventilation.
“You need a relaxed body and mind. If you find yourself watching the clock, aware you’re going to be tired, get up. You’ll end up hating your pillow, your duvet – and your bedfellow, who is most likely asleep. Do something calming then return to bed.
“They say you can’t find sleep. You have to let sleep find you.”
‘I get anxious without enough rest’
CLAIRE McGILL, 41, a fitness instructor from Cheltenham, Gloucs, lives with husband William, 41, and son Harry, ten. She used to suffer from insomnia but now clocks up nine hours of sleep a night. Claire doesn’t function well on less and says:
“I battled insomnia when I was studying in my late teens. I would be out with friends, burn the candle at both ends but never really log enough sleep to properly rejuvenate me.
“I was getting five hours a night maximum. I knew it was unsustainable, so I paid for sleep therapy and started practising techniques I still use today.
“I write a diary every night before bed to “park” positive and negative things from the day that would otherwise spin round my head. I use mindfulness techniques to push things out of my consciousness that might keep me awake.
“I drink no tea or coffee after midday, finish eating by 6pm so I’m not digesting while I’m trying to sleep and make sure my room is dark and cool.
“I’m in bed by 10pm most nights and my alarm is set for 7am. But I almost always wake up a few minutes before it goes off.
“If I don’t get enough sleep, it impacts everything. I get anxious, fidgety and lack concentration. I’m more likely to cause an argument with my husband, too.
“We’ve been together for 20 years so he’s used to me needing sleep and he knows how awful I can be without it.
“His first question to me every morning is: “How did you sleep?” I know not everyone needs as much as me but I operate best with nine hours a night. My skin is clear, my concentration levels are good and I’m more patient with my son.
“When Harry was young, it was impossible to get the hours I needed and I really struggled. I was exhausted and irritable – more so than other new mums I knew.
“I’d feel like I was going through the motions, lost my personality and was a shadow of who I used to be, all due to a lack of sleep.
“Thankfully, Harry has grown into a great sleeper. I talk to him a lot about the importance of sleep because his generation is constantly stimulated.
“We prioritise food and exercise, so why not sleep? It’s vital.
“I think it needs to be taken more seriously.”