Messing with our heads – and beds

Beth Cooper300

St Francis Bay freelance journalist Beth Cooper Howell takes a look at the other side of life in Woman on Top, her weekly lifestyle column for The Herald


I recently read that experts now believe we don’t need a solid eight hours’ sleep a night. Bang goes my life, routine and belief system. Almost 40 years of being a good girl and avoiding the midnight oil like the plague is out the window, thanks to BBC News and a bunch of American researchers.

According to painstaking studies and historical records, humans are biologically wired to snooze in two distinct chunks – a fat bit just after sunset, followed by a flurry of activity, checking of e-mails, snacking and such, and then a final round of shut-eye before morning.

Doing it the other way – how you and I and the rest of the planet have been told to do it since nappy days – is actually wrong, the study says. And it’s also probably to blame for increased stress, depression and general moody blues too.

Who are these people anyway? The ones who tell us how to feel, what to eat and wear, who to marry and now, for Pete’s sake, how to sleep?
I’m all for research and investigation – I’m a journalist so that sort of thing is second nature – but I’m beginning to suspect that there’s some global Thought Police syndicate running the world with the express purpose of messing with our heads (and in the case of this latest study – our beds).

Take my late grandparents, bless them. I distinctly remember my Grampa’s diet changing drastically after the doctor diagnosed an ulcer. Out went fibre and nuts, in crept white bread and refined foods and under doctor’s orders, nogal!
The argument then was that your stomach couldn’t handle rough ’n ready food, so it had to be soothed with anything smooth, plain and white.

As a health journalist, I find this poppycock hard to believe, because my personal bible of food truth tells me that eating nature’s bounty as close to its natural state as possible (think potatoes with skin, rather than crispy fries), is the key to health.

But back in the day, they were handing out this type of dodgy advice like candy to babies – and nothing’s changed.
First we were told that butter was the devil. So everybody bought margarine – that looks-like-butter polyunsaturated gloop masquerading as real food.

Then we heard that fat was bad, so Joe Soap and the rest of us ditched oil and replaced it with sugar-heavy energy bars and fat-free stuff that tasted good because it had, yes, bowls of sugar added to make it palatable.
When sugar emerged as public enemy No1, we embraced chemical sweeteners – a love affair that still has millions of poor sods locked in its embrace.

I’m fed up. One minute you hear about the octogenarian who lived so long because she drank bourbon daily and ate jam on her toast every morning. Turn the page and the coin’s flipped to achieve long life, do yoga, eat raw veggies and drink filtered water from the highest reaches of the Himalayas.

And now a couple of academics reckon I should wake up my kids at 11pm for a midnight picnic because that’s what they were born to do?

Enough already. I don’t mind a little kitchen science, but the buck stops at my bedroom, thank you very much.

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