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However, that doesn't stop astronauts snoring - as proven by the deep nasal tones detected on Nasa Every year, some 10million prescriptions for sleeping pills are written in Britain, and we are currently a nation struggling to get sufficient shut-eye. This was applied to a sponge then held to the nostrils of the person needing sleep.
The Elizabethans favoured 'the fat of a dormouse applied to the soles of the feet'.
A recent survey found that women slept on average seven hours and 12 minutes, men for six hours and 45 minutes. A Californian study found that people who slept more than eight hours a night were at greater risk of dying younger.
On the other hand, a study of the sleeping habits of 10,000 civil servants by the University of Warwick found that less than five hours sleep a night increased the chances of dying from cardiovascular problems.
He said: 'You must sleep some time between lunch and dinner, and no half measures. You will be able to accomplish more.' He did, however, admit to another reason for his siesta.
'Sleep enables you to be at your best in the evening when you join your wife, family and friends for dinner.
When he fell into a deep sleep, the pencil would be dropped and the sound would wake him up. Going to bed late in the evening and staying asleep until morning is the pattern of the Western industrial working culture, but this single stretch of sleep hasn't always been common practice.
Before the Industrial Revolution and the arrival of the electric light bulb, there was nothing fixed about our sleep patterns. According to social historians, our agricultural medieval forebears got up at dawn, started work early and fell asleep in the late afternoon.
This fits in with an acknowledged spike in the brain's activity around midnight (much utilised by poets and writers), after which a further four hours or so of sleep would follow.But a study of 200 people by the British Cheese Board found no connection.(Maybe not such a surprise given who conducted the survey.) However, researchers did find that different cheeses could affect sleep.Peasants in 19th-century France took to their beds for long stretches of the year.Graham Robb, in The Discovery Of France, writes of a civil servant in Burgundy, in 1844, who found that no one was working after the wine harvest.