No wonder the world is angry

The demands of the workplace are squeezing our sleep to such an extent people are increasingly turni

What daylight saving time taketh away in March, it giveth back in October. And that extra hour in bed is a rarer commodity than one might think.

Because people are working so hard they have virtually no time to sleep. A fifth of American adults sleep fewer than six hours a night, says the US National Sleep Foundation, and that number is rising despite doctors telling us it’s bad for our health.

Asia is yet more sleep deprived – four out of ten Japanese sleep no more than six hours, according to an ACNielsen sleep survey. Perhaps it's no surprise the most sleepless countries top the national income tables. Workers in the richest nations are sacrificing sleep to sustain healthy growth figures.

Today’s work-sleep balance is oddly reminiscent of late 18th century Lancashire. Workers during the dark days of industrial take-off spent 12 to 14 hours a day in the cotton mills on six-day weeks.

At the day’s end, there was little time for anything other than eating before collapsing into a bunk. The "eight hours for work, eight hours for leisure, eight hours for sleep" the 19th-century Chartists fought for redressed those grim conditions, but has been forgotten like last night’s dream.

Proof enough are the gaunt, sickly faces on a midweek morning on the Tube – or indeed the New York Subway or Tokyo’s Metro. A recent survey by the think tank Demos found that 39% of adults admit they suffer from sleep deprivation, rising to 50% for those in managerial jobs.

Sleep steals hours from productive work. The technologists, therefore, have always had an incentive to come up with profitable solutions. Thomas Edison’s 1913 invention of artificial daylight, the light bulb, changed natural sleeping patterns for good. It also, you could argue, undid the great work of the Chartists’ eight-hour campaign. Workers could now toil 24 hours; round-the-clock production started at Henry Ford’s factories in Detroit and hit previously unimaginable output rates.

In many ways, Edison epitomised modern capitalism’s constant yearning for increased productivity and efficiency.

"Most people … oversleep 100 per cent, because they like it. That extra 100 per cent makes them unhealthy and inefficient," he said.

"The person who sleeps eight or ten hours a night is never fully asleep and never fully awake.” According to a 1975 study by Wilse E Webb and Harman Agnew, Edison robbed us of two hours sleep every night.

Just before the pre-light bulb era in 1910, the average adult slept 9 hours. The average today is 7 to 7.5 - that’s up to 700 hours a year most likely doing overtime.

Edison’s edict of “more work, less sleep” rules the commercial bustle as much as it did a century ago, but today workers are increasingly turning to pharmaceuticals to get them through the day.

In fact, sleep is now big business and has become the fastest-growing sector of the £300 billion global pharmaceutical, leisure and well-being market.

Tiredness is often treated like an unwanted virus. In the US, a mild amphetamine is replacing the double espresso to fend off daytime drowsiness.

Ritalin - prescribed for attention deficit disorder, narcolepsy and chronic fatigue syndrome - is seeing more widespread abuse.

A new generation of eugeroics or “wakefulness” pills promises to keep tomorrow’s workers awake into the night: Modafinil, a sleep suppressant, is used both by the military to maintain the alertness of pilots on 40-hour missions and college students cramming for finals. US-based Cortex Pharmaceuticals is developing a simulated-sleep pill, CX717, that when taken replicates the effects and benefits of a good night’s sleep – but in two waking hours.

We, like other animals, need food, water and sleep to live. Studies have shown that our sleeping habits are governed, as with primates, by the Carcadian cycle: every 12 hours our bodies and brains want downtime, first at between 1am and 4am, then again in the early afternoon.

The siesta - not as Mediterranean as is commonly thought, and widespread in northern Europe a few centuries ago - is a natural remedy, but one that is even being phased out in its spiritual home, Spain. A national government campaign there last year urged civil servants to take no more than 45 minutes for lunch because it posed a challenge to productivity.

Sleep has become a valuable commodity. If you want it, be prepared to pay for it. The pressure to top the world economy super league has trickled down inevitably to the competitive workplace, encroached on our bedtimes and subtly enforced a sleep diet.

Is it time to resurrect outside our office blocks the intertwined numbers “888”, which adorned the pediments of many union buildings in 19th-century Australia and doffed a cap to the Chartists? Eight hours of uninterrupted sleep isn’t much to ask.

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An English hero for the ages: Ian Botham at 60

Botham blends his sportsmanship and deep-seated passion for cricket with a lust for life.

Begging W H Auden’s pardon, it is possible both to honour and to value the vertical man, and in the case of Ian Botham, who turned 60 on 24 November, it is our bounden duty. No sportsman has given Britons so much to enjoy in the past half-century and no sportsman is loved more. Two decades after he retired from first-class cricket, his reputation as one of life’s champions remains unassailable.

No mere cricketer is he, either. Botham is a philanthropist, having raised more than £12m for various charities, notably Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research. In December, 30 years after his first walk from John o’Groats to Land’s End, he will set off again, in South Africa, where England are on tour. And he really does walk, too, not amble. As somebody who accompanied him on one of his dozen walks said: “You can’t keep up with him. The man is a phenomenon.”

Of all postwar sportsmen, only Bobby Charlton and, at a pinch, Henry Cooper come close to matching Botham’s enduring popularity. But Charlton, a shy man who was scarred by the Munich plane crash of 1958 (and may never have recovered from its emotional effects), has never comfortably occupied a public stage; and Cooper, being a boxer, had a solitary role. Botham, by contrast, spoke for England. Whenever he picked up his bat, or had a ball in his hand, he left spectators in no doubt.

Others have also spoken for England. Bobby Moore and Martin Johnson, captains respectively of England’s World Cup-winning football and rugby teams, were great players but did not reach out to people as naturally as Botham. Nick Faldo, Lester Piggott, Sebastian Coe and, to bring us up to date, Lewis Hamilton have beaten the best in the world, but they lacked those qualities that Botham displayed so freely. That is not to mark them down. They were, and are, champions. But Botham was born under a different star.

It was John Arlott, the great cricket commentator, who first spotted his uniqueness. Covering a match at Taunton in 1974, he asked the young colt to carry his bags up the rickety staircase to the press box, where Arlott, wearing his oenophile’s hat, pulled out a bottle of red wine and invited Botham to drink. Forty years later Botham is a discriminating wine drinker – and maker. Along with his friend and fellow England great Bob Willis, and their Australian wine­making pal Geoff Merrill, he has put his name to a notable Shiraz, “BMW”.

Arlott, with his nose for talent and good company, saw something in the young Botham that Brian Close, his captain at Somerset, was beginning to bring out. Later, Mike Brearley, as England captain, drew out something even more remarkable. As Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote, you’ve got to be carefully taught. And Botham, a fine team man as well as a supreme individual performer, has never withheld praise from those who enabled him to find his voice.

If sport reveals character, then cricket is the game that reveals it most clearly. In no other sport is the individual performance rooted so firmly in a team context. Every over brings a contest of skill and intelligence between batsman and bowler but only a team can win the match. “A cricketer,” as Arlott said, “is showing you something of himself all the time.”

Cricket also reveals national character more than any other sport. Football may be the most popular game in the world but cricket, and cricketers, tell us far more about England and Englishness. It is instructive, in this regard, to hear what Philippe Auclair, a French journalist and author long resident in London, has to say about Botham: “He is essentially an 18th-century Englishman.” In one! It’s not difficult to sense a kinship with Tom Jones, Fielding’s embodiment of 18th-century life, who began his journey, as readers may recall, in Somerset.

A country boy who played for Worcestershire after leaving Somerset, and who lives by choice in North Yorkshire, Botham is an old-fashioned Englishman. Although nobody has yet found him listening to the parson’s sermon, he is conservative with a small and upper-case C, a robust monarchist, handy with rod and gun, and happiest with a beaker in front of him. He represents (though he would never claim to be a representative) all those people who understand instinctively what England means, not in a narrow way, but through something that is in the blood.

Above all, he will be remembered for ever as the hero of 1981. Even now it takes some believing that Botham bowled and batted with such striking success that the Australians, who were one up after two Tests, were crushed. Some of us who were actually at Headingley for the famous third Test – thousands who claim to have been there were not – recall the odds of 500-1 on an England victory going up on the electronic scoreboard that Saturday evening.

Botham made 149 not out as England, following on, beat the Aussies by 18 runs. For three hours the country seemed to stop. In the next Test, at Edgbaston, Botham took five wickets for one run as Australia fell under his spell. Then, at Old Trafford, on a dank Saturday afternoon, he played the most memorable innings of his life and one of the greatest innings ever played by an Englishman: 118 magnificent, joyful runs. Joy: that’s the word. Botham brought joy into people’s lives.

Yet it was the final Test at the Oval, which ended in a draw, that brought from him a performance no less remarkable than those from before. He bowled 89 overs in that match, flat out, continuing to run in when others withdrew with injury. That was the team man coming to the fore. Little wonder his comrades thought the world of him.

Modest, loyal, respectful to opponents, grateful to all who have lent him a hand, and supported throughout a turbulent life by Kath, his rock of a wife, and their three children, this is a cricketing hero to rank with W G Grace, Jack Hobbs, Wally Hammond and Fred Trueman. A feature in the lives of all who saw him, and a very English hero. 

This article first appeared in the 26 November 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Terror vs the State