Let’s get the obvious joke out of the way: insomnia can be terrible but an hour of Michael Mosley doing his softly-spoken shtick works wonders.
Joking aside, How to Sleep Well with Michael Mosley (BBC Two) was indeed a little dry. What you made of it will depend largely on whether you were one of the many (many) thousands who read Matthew Walker’s Why We Sleep, which was an international bestseller in 2017. If you did, then How to Sleep Well will have been singularly uninspiring: it was the same story, Mosley-fied and lightly dumbed down.
But if you didn’t – and if you haven’t followed the proliferation of sleep-science literature that’s followed Walker’s book (including Fast Asleep: How To Get a Really Good Night’s Rest by one Dr M Mosley) then the documentary will have been an eye-opener.
An eye-opener about shut-eye, if you will, and the crucial role sleep plays in our health and restoration. Nonetheless, it was an eye-opener that followed the Mosley pop-science formula to the letter. First Mosley identifies the problem, then he commissions a survey that shows that the problem is bigger than we thought, and then he admits it’s a problem he shares. So 1-in-3 admitted to struggling with their sleep, rising to 1-in-2 during the pandemic; Mosley said he hadn’t slept through the night for a decade or more.
Then the good doctor puts himself through a series of scientific tests that often seem to involve watching him suffer, and finally he suggests a few sensible solutions for other sufferers.
In the pursuit of sleep we got to watch Mosley put on funny brainwave measuring hats that made him look like the Hellraiser villain Pinhead, and dunk his hand in iced water till he couldn’t stand the pain, while we also listened to playback of him snoring (at a rhino-bashing 45Db). As always, new research was “groundbreaking”.’ Test results were reliably “remarkable”. And in conclusion, almost everything you’re doing is baHow td for you, particularly if it’s one of the very many things you’re doing that you don’t even know you’re doing. Because you’re asleep. Or you’re not… it doesn’t matter, they’re both bad.
Now is probably not the time to mention that the only time I have ever suffered from poor sleep was when I was putting myself through the brutal, calorie-controlled self-flagellation of the Fast Diet (© Dr M Mosley) and hence going to bed feeling mildly delirious. Still, as this programme showed, sleep deprivation is hugely harmful and widely misunderstood. Whichever way Mosley inspires people to drop off, in this case that’s all for the good.