Insomnia, and Michael Moseley

I have never considered myself an insomniac, if I was how could I have survived driving many thousands of kms a year in both my professional life and my subsequent volunteer capacity?

However, I have long been aware that I don’t get the best quality of sleep and that I often wake up at least once, and often several times, a night. I know that I constantly turn from one side to the other and, in extreme wakefulness, give up and read while lying there, for an hour or so. But to complicate matters, I also know that sometimes I dream that I am awake. This is because there have been times when I am seemingly in despair of getting back to sleep again and then suddenly awake and see that the clock has barely moved at all.

I decided on a little experiment to test myself. I set up a motion activated trail camera on a tripod at the foot of the bed and then studied the results on the computer the next morning. It starts recording at any movement and then continues for one minute, so, allowing for the disturbance in setting it up and switching it off, the video was triggered no less than 25 times in a 6 hour period. No wonder I get tired during the day, even taking into account the special circumstances of my tasks as a carer.

The next night, with her full knowledge, I did the same thing with Fran. I put her to bed every night in her medical bed in a separate room, and leave her in her position of choice, foetal on her right side. When I wake her to get up 12 hours later she is always in exactly the same position. So, the test. For once ever since she has had to sleep alone, this night she was foetal again but facing the other way. Ah! I thought, she turns about just like me but always ends facing the same direction. The camera doesn’t lie, in 12 hours the video was triggered, just once, when she turned from right to left.

So to Michael Mosely, a medical journalist who has investigated lots of things and last week, I think it was, he realised that he was an insomniac. He asked his wife how she had slept in the morning and the reply was ‘like a log, the only time I woke up was when you got out of bed and started pacing about’. Unlike me though, Mosely does do that and then often takes himself to the kitchen where he starts snacking, must do a lot of pacing to stay so slim then.

The programme was very interesting and science based but I took away from it 2 main recommendations that were easy to follow. The first was to avoid screen work shortly before bed. I always go to bed and read for up to half an hour or so before turning to sleep. Not only that but I turn the light off and use my backlit Kindle. Very bad. I do this with the door shut to stop flies, in season, coming attracted by the glow, so I then before sleeping have to get up and open the door because I prefer it that way and my dog sleeps just outside it. So more disturbance. I haven’t always read in bed, until it went awry due to the pandemic, I used to listen to the Archers podcast with all lights off. So I determined to take up that habit again instead of the Sunday omnibus, which is inconvenient anyway.

The 2nd suggestion was very familiar to me and just as easy to adopt. Throughout my driving career I have employed the use of ‘powernaps’ whenever I could. This is not just nodding off after dinner, usually mid afternoon, but whenever appropriate, setting a time, alarmed if necessary for complete relaxation of no more than 30 minutes duration.

A little diversion that some of you may not know. In France, and some other countries, it is illegal for HGV drivers (with specific exceptions, perishable goods etc.) to drive on a Sunday. Now you car drivers may appreciate your Sundays without thundering lorries around you, but be aware, Monday mornings are a much less safe time to be on the road. Here in the Dordogne where I live and was based when working, it takes at the very least, 6 hours to get to Paris in a lorry. thus a strict rdv time of say 8am means leaving at 1am to allow for the obligatory 45 minute break to be taken by the driver on the way. Many rdvs are earlier, 6am is not unusual, that means leaving at 11pm on Sunday. Perfectly legal, the ban finishes at 10pm. But consider this. A driver starting on Sunday, or even early Monday, is not allowed to drive on the Saturday, so must be in the base by Friday evening. He has been on days, he clocks off and goes home to the wife to sleep as normal on Friday night. He does what he does on a Saturday, goes to the match, does a bit of gardening, watches the telly, and goes to bed as normal, perhaps around 11 on Saturday night. Bright as a button Sunday morning does all the things we all do on his day of rest and then, just as he is ready for bed at 10pm, he has to go to bloody work, and be expected not to be a danger to the travelling public in the wee small hours when he should be, and if you are in his way, may be…sleeping. :astonished:

My solution was start at 10 pm, drive the 4 hours or so to the first service area on the A20, and go to bed. OK, alarm set, only 45 minutes, but a powerful 45 minutes, a powernap, and fresh as a daisy just long enough to get me safely to Paris. :innocent:

So back to the point, at last I hear you say, except if I have already put you to sleep you are either cured or have deserted me long ago. 15 minutes of relaxing Everyday Story of Countryfolk in complete darkness, followed by 8 hours of solid sleep with hardly a turn to disturb the duvet, and then in the afternoon half an hour, if space can be found in the schedule, with Classic FM way down low on the radio. But don’t forget the alarm, only 30 minutes max now. :wink:

The result, 4 days and nights of relative bliss.
Try it if you need to. :joy:

BTW. The Sunday ban is not British law. More sensibly, drivers from Scotland and the North of England have Friday and Saturday off and then do a normal Sunday days drive down to London, and so to bed.
Oh, and other podcasts are available. :wink:


Great post David, I too watched the Michael Mosely programme last week, I enjoy his programmes. I have become quite obsessed with how much sleep I’m getting each night and check my smart watch every morning, comparing the amount of deep sleep to light sleep and ‘awake’ time. What I find works for me is listening to the radio (via my ipad) either something on Radio 4 extra, quite a variety on there, usually about 30 minutes long is usually sufficient if I’m tired. If I know I’m going to struggle to sleep then I just leave Talksport on low and it will play on through the night whilst I sleep! My Dad (now retired) was a HGV driver on the continent and he often had to drive through the night to get to the market in Paris with a full load of ‘hanging beef’. As you say, drivers with refrigerated trailers/perishable goods were allowed to drive on Sundays. I blame my Dad entirely for my decision to move to France, all the trips Mum and I accompanied him on in his truck, I loved every minute!! Thank you for reminding me of those happy times :slightly_smiling_face:

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I watched the Michael Mosely programme as well, it was really informative and I enjoyed it.
I come at this from a different direction, after my industrial accident and strokes my sleep center was basically destroyed by scar tissue and a tumour, I have lived with the progression for the last 15 years.
I have got to the point now where I get around 32 hours deep REM sleep a month nowadays, I have stopped the sleep clinic’s now since coming to France as the anesthetics have progressively stoped having any affect on me.
It’s a balance between managing the tiredness nowadays and getting on with life, it’s helped by the slow progression of the scar tissue, but means I get very little regenerative benefits from any sleep I do get, I know it will ultimately get to the point where my body will not cope with it any more, but I have had superb specialists helping me cope throughout the years.
We live life to the full and don’t dwell on anything as life is for living not dwelling on the past.


@Dawnt I loved your reply and fair play to your Dad, I managed to avoid hanging beef (not fun on cornering) during my career and even managed to avoid fridges till I came to France. Hated them, all that stop start clattering from the motor throughout the night, whenever I could I dropped the trailer and parked behind it. I did though experience the ‘sway’ from beef on the hoof in Australia years ago. :roll_eyes:

As regards the music, I am looking into that, The Archers is ok but you can’t beat very quiet soothing music to complete the task. I have an Asus tablet and don’t fully understand it, not very techie minded with such stuff, but if I can get music that perhaps times out after an hour that would be perfect.

@Griffin36 Reading your reply made me feel almost guilty about my post, set beside your experience it is of little consequence. But you are right about dwelling on the past, I am acutely aware that part of my own sleeplessness was due to a habit of raking over years old events in my mind, not always bad experiences, but nevertheless they keep the mind alert, which is precisely what is not required when you are trying to recharge batteries. I try to make a conscious decision to relax and find that otherwise un-noticed tension drops from my arms for instance.

I have not yet re-run the Trail camera experiment, I feel that knowing it is there may detract from the relaxation otherwise obtained. But if/when I do I will come back and report the result. :slightly_smiling_face:

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My sleep is affected by damage done in hospital. My back was put out after an operation and no one listened to me when I complained of the pain in my back. I could walk, sit but not lie down. I could not sleep, especially on the hard mattress in the hospital.
Only when I threatened to leave to go home was the physiotherapist called and she found that my spine was out of alignment.
It has had the effect of damaging the nerve to my bladder so that when I am lying down, eg asleep, I get false signals that I need to empty my bladder and it wakes me up.
This can happen up to four times a night, so my sleep is very disturbed and sometimes I find it very difficult to go to sleep again.
Last night I actually managed a straight six hours and what a difference!
I also have to swim on my left side, Indian style as they say here in France. Once I tried to swim on my right side and couldn’t walk properly for six weeks.
I really feel for you, but being positive is also a great help and enjoying what we are able to do despite our problems.


Sorry to hear of your problems Jane, but I have never heard of that expression before and not sure I know what sort of stroke you mean. Although I can swim on my back and do a breast stroke (rather awkwardly because I can’t coordinate the froglike kicking of the legs :roll_eyes:) my stroke of choice is always the crawl and, if the need arises, a very fast sprint one for extra heat generation. I think I can picture a side stroke but not sure how it is achieved.

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I have never seen the point of looking back on the bad things in life as you cannot change them and all you do is hurt yourself, David never feel bad about posting, your situation is affecting you and you have enough on your plate without this complication, you have a good handle on things to help and your experience will help others, you are doing a fantastic job and should feel proud about doing so :sunglasses:
We live day to day, moving to France has been one of the best decisions of my life, we love it here and treasure the time we have left, getting married is the final part of creating the life we always wanted.


I put my right arm forward and my left by my side and then pull through the water with both.
I can also swim on my back, but I get my hair wet.

Ha ha what is it with ladies and the desire to keep their hair dry? :smiley: I have long noted it as the reason for the preponderance of women preferring the breast stroke in a very gentille forward motion. I must admit to being totally immune to such thoughts and, while I don’t dive because of the unevenly rocky sides of my pond, I do abseil part of the way in and then launch myself in a shallow forward motion that takes me below the surface.

To be more serious I can picture your side stroke and have seen it done but had no idea that it could be a relief fo the problem that you have.

Swimming, next to sleeping, is the highlight of my day and, regarding the latter, I remember a quote many years ago of the actress Sian Phillips on the subject ‘I love sleeping so much that I can almost taste it’. When I heard that I thought that is exactly how I feel, but I somehow got out of the habit over the years.


I am looking forward to opening the pool.

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Sidestroke :slightly_smiling_face:

God knows. Perhaps it harks back to times when they had stuff in their hair and had to have it done at the hairdresser’s. If my ex mother-in-law got her hair wet she looked bald. Most unprepossessing.
Proper breaststroke means sticking your head in the water, what’s not to love about being underwater anyway.

My thoughts exactly but I do understand that the breast stroke lends itself to a gentle progression which eliminates the need for total immersion, if desired. :slightly_smiling_face:

When watching my favourite video on Netflix, ‘The Ponds’, which is about open swimming on Hampstead Heath, I saw one elderly man doing a lady style gentle breaststroke while still wearing his specs. He then forgot himself and dipped his head under the water…and lost his specs. :rofl:

I am certain that @Jane_Williamson does not have that problem. :smiley:

I have regularly lost my specs while driving in off the springboard etc and had to fish for them in the deep end like an Ama person, they were the sort where you just have lenses and titanium wires, no frame, so slightly tricky to find on the blue tiled black grouted bottom of the pool :joy: much trickier in the HH bathing ponds though.

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…and mine here. :rofl:

A much loved dog of ours died from a brain haemorrhage as he returned from a walk with my wife and fell, dead, into the pond. I was not there and a neighbour managed to pull him out by his collar but the collar came off at the last second and was lost beneath the surface. Fran was distraught and It took me 3 weeks of diving down to find it on the bottom. :roll_eyes:

That is so sad,

Our new puppy “Willow”


Not so much about insomnia – more about sleep deprivation and a brain re-set….

Before I came to live in France, I would bomb down on my BMW motorbike from my flat in Islington to my house in Charente Maritime for holidays. My modus operandi was once I had my foot on the pedal I wouldn’t stop until I got there.

A big fat breakfast on the ferry at 4.30am would see me through the rest of the travelling day, and I’d arrive at my destination in the early evening, having started around 3.00am.

I was in my late 40s I think when on one journey, about two thirds of the way, I became aware that I had fallen asleep, probably for microseconds, and I knew I had to stop!

I braked immediately and pulled over onto the grass verge, lifted the bike up on its stand, climbed back on and lowered my helmeted head to rest on the petrol tank. I couldn’t stop my eyelids from closing – a powerful physical urge was shutting them down.

As soon as my eyes were closed, myriad brightly flashing multi-coloured constellations swirled around in my mind, buzzing and crackling and speeding all over the place. A cosmic explosion of sorts was taking place in my brain.

About two minutes later I surfaced and felt completely refreshed, pressed the ignition switch and continued my journey. One hell of a mini power sleep.

And a lucky escape, I’m sure!

A lucky escape, often the earliest indication is that when following another vehicle perhaps several hundred yards in front it suddenly seems much closer, and you realise that in fact you have, in fact, slept for a few seconds. Scary.

I’ve recently started experiencing insomnia for the first time in my life. I feet tired and exhausted.
I’ve recently started experiencing insomnia for the first time in my life. I feel tired and exhausted. Any other updates and advice are appreciated.

I found that exercise helps enormously - it gives you a bit of time to think and also tires you out so sleep comes.