Why I’m already tired of these new government sleep guidelines

PUBLISHED: 17:59 17 July 2019 | UPDATED: 17:59 17 July 2019

We all know that not getting enough sleep is bad for you - but now the government have issued new sleep guidelines

We all know that not getting enough sleep is bad for you - but now the government have issued new sleep guidelines


As if we don’t have enough to deal with we’ve now been told that we need to get more sleep. Government directives like this just make Rachel Moore yawn

How did you sleep last night?

Not well? Then, you need to do something about it - quick - because the government is gearing up to point the finger at your sleep irresponsibility if you become seriously ill.

Failing to set yourself sensible bedtimes and clock up enough sleep is costing the NHS. And the Westminster sleep police will not be happy.

Fewer than seven hours' sleep - the amount that three-quarters of the UK are getting through their days on - is damaging our health and putting ourselves at risk to a whole gamut of diseases and long-term conditions.

So concerned about this alleged growing health timebomb among an estimated 20 million people, despite the mounting Brisis (Brexit crisis) paralysing Westminster and Whitehall, ministers and civil servants have somehow mustered the time to put together guidelines to improve the nation's sleep.

As if we don't know we're exhausted, thank you very much. Tired is the modern normal. It's the biggest couple argument - the who's more tired contests.

Wave these guidelines under the nose of parents of young children, working full-time and trying to keep 101 balls in the air to pay the mortgage keep their heads above water and they'll tell ministers where to put them.

Suggest they need to try harder, if you dare, to menopausal woman, sandwiching a full day's work between the demands of parenting young adults, running a home and looking the increasing needs of elderly parents, with any thoughts of retirement disappearing further and further into the distance because of the parlous state of her pension.

And we can all imagine the response of the people running businesses, wracked with worry abut the future of their staff post-Brexit.

But if we all get enough slumber, then all will be well with the world, and, hopefully, our health. It's all down to us.. It's as simple as that. If only.

Clearly, this is, once more, all about the blame game; passing the responsibility of the pressure on our health services on to us. It's your fault you had a stroke because you took an irresponsible attitude to your "sleep hygiene' - it's a thing, apparently - and should have known better.

As if insomniacs don't have enough to worry about. The torture of elusive sleep isn't just causing daily deadening tiredness, it also means the Grim Reaper scythe of heart disease, cancer, depression and other life-threatening conditions looms above.

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Yes, talk about fiddling while Rome burns. Whether it's about distracting itself - or a tactic to distract us from the chaos and muddle of Brexit and our neglected public services - ministers have found the time to kindly draw up some sleep rules for us. How thoughtful.

Apparently, it simply won't do, as we hurtle, like a derailed train, towards Brexit to face the future as a sleep-deprived nation. This is a serious issue, the leaked public health green paper states. Severe enough to justify government intervention.

So new national guidance on daily recommended hours of sleep are to be released.

Hours that people trying to make their lives work will see as pure luxury. Holiday sleep. The kind of regular sleep we can only dream of - if we could get to sleep in the first place.

We know we need seven to nine hours. Most of us yearn to be able to keep to regular early bedtimes.

Treating us like us like naughty children and nincompoops with tax payers' money paying for national sleep guidelines (telling us what we already know) is an insult, and yet more evidence of how out of touch the government is with the pressures of real life.

Apparently, this sleep guidance is part of a series of proposals aimed at improving public health in the UK, with sleep deprivation leading to a multitude of health problems

The draft guidance reads a review of the connection between sleep and health is being carried out "with a view to informing the case for clear national guidance on the daily recommended hours of sleep for individuals in different age brackets and to raise awareness of the key "sleep hygiene" factors that can support healthy sleeping."

So now, as well as lying awake worrying about work, money, family, life, we'll now also be worrying about how we're staring serious illness in the face. The fewer hours' sleep, the fewer years to live. How helpful of our caring government.

If only solving sleep issues were that simple. Then, wise Government, we wouldn't be so sleep-deprived.

An administration obsessed with 'guidelines' - an avalanche of advice on healthy amounts of alcohol, fat, sugar, salt and now sleep, is a tick-box process to make it feel like it's doing something. ie. passing the buck of responsibility for their effects.

But sleep - or the inability to achieve it - is a health condition in itself. We can take responsibility to control our weight, drinking and smoking by willpower and minds, but we can't make ourselves sleep.

The more we long for it, the more difficult it is to find it, causing its own problems.

It's worrying that the government can't make the distinction.

In the meantime, we can cling on to Napoleon's comment about sleep hours needed: "Six for a man, seven for a woman and eight for a fool."

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