Men and sleep – what one man thinks

ImageAs you may have spotted I wondered yesterday why more men weren’t prepared to talk about their sleep habits and experiences. One man, award-winning food writer, Tim Hayward, a master of the art of micro blogging on Twitter, gave his perspective. Here’s our conversation:

FB (@sleep_secrets) The blog is one month old today and the big question is why are so few men contributing? Surely they can’t all be great sleepers?

TH (@timhayward) We probably don’t engage with our bodies. They are just cumbersome meat vehicles for moving our egos around. 😉

FB 😉 Many famous insomniacs are male though …. It must impact on effectiveness/creativity?

TH Interesting, isn’t it? I’ve never seen ‘sleep’ as a thing. If I wake up early, it’s extra work or thinking time, if I’m…

TH …knackered then it isn’t. Sleep either comes or it doesn’t so I’m tired/useless or rested/useful… maybe I’m too much of a

TH …Buddhist to imagine I have any control over it. Booze helps :-)))

FB depends on the amount. Possibly not when you come to Bristol (alluding to an epic post-hangover series of tweets of Tim’s after a recent visit)

TH LOL. It’s an interesting point though. Try as I might, I can’t overcome a probably male predisposition to position tiredness

TH …as a positive… a proof of hard work. To worry about it publicly would be weakness. You’d have as much luck getting blokes to

TH … talk about having insufficient stamina, being a bit thick or suffering from erectile disfunction.

TH Also… don’t men who have ‘mind’ jobs reposition tiredness as a point of pride, like sportsmen do with pain?

FB Maybe. Though probably not if they have a full-on job and small kids. Tiredness must impact at some stage …

TH Sure… like when you open your eyes and find yourself doing 65 along the central reservation. It does impact

TH …but it’s still about ‘dealing with pressure’ rather than thinking about ‘sleep’ as a separate thing that you can/can’t have

FB What’s odd though is that it seems to me generally that the male attitude to problems is ‘let’s find a solution’ ..

TH Yes. But 90% of communication about health/wellbeing issues to men is always about getting them to notice a problem

TH ..men and women have learned to see sleep in fundamentally different ways.

TH I’m racking my brains here, trying to think of a gender-laden comparison

TH OK. Try this. My daughter comes home from school, worried about ‘friendship’. She’s already learning, in an all-female…

TH …environment that ‘friendship’ is a ‘thing’. It can be grown, nurtured, given, stolen, taken away, traded…..

TH It’s taken me ages to get my head around this because, as a bloke ‘friendship’ is a metric not a currency. If you ask me…

TH I could judge whether I was a mate, friend, good friend, wingman etc etc to any individual… but it’s an attempt to measure

TH …and express a state of affairs that I could no more control than fly. I have to accept that Lib (Tim’s daughter) is learning to see friendship

TH ..in a totally different way to me. This seems like a similar gender split. If what you’re observing is true, then I wonder if

TH …men and women have learned to see sleep in fundamentally different ways.

TH [PAUSES] Do you know… in probably 40 yrs of reading magazines targetted at men, I don’t recall ever reading more than three pieces

TH .. on how it feels to be a father… and it’s certainly relevant to more of us than ‘How to have an iron-hard-six-pack’.

FB I suspect you may just have got yourself a commission there 😉

FB But maybe men don’t see sleeping 3-4 hours a night as a problem but a normal state of affairs to be ignored like any other health risk?

TH That’s one way of looking at it. Though men might also have an advantage here…

TH From what I’ve read on sleeplessness, the stress of worrying that one is going to be denied sleep is

TH ..by far the thing that most prevents sleep. Maybe men just can’t conceive of that as an issue, fart, roll over and snore 🙂

FB Aaah, maybe women should fart more. That’s obviously the solution 😉

So what do other men think? Has Tim got it right about the way you think about sleep?

Tim Hayward is an award-winning food journalist who writes regularly for the FT and is the author of Food DIY. He and his wife run Fitzbillies cafe and restaurant in Cambridge.

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