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The shuttle approach to insomnia

IF EVER I were among a group that was asked, "Right, who wants to go to ooter space?", my hand would be the first one up.

Space, that's the place for me. Or at least it was. I've just read in my Herald that in space, as our report put it, no one can hear you snore — because you can't sleep.

To hell with that. I went through a period in my life where I could hardly sleep, and would not repeat it for anything. Sleep doesn't sound like much: it's just no' daein' anything.

But, without this nothing, we are nobody. We fall apart. At that time, I remembered thinking I'd do anything just for one night's sleep. I considered packing in my job, going teetotal, putting lavender under my pillow, desperate measures that no man would undertake under normal circumstances.

Today, most nights, I sleep quite well. Indeed, every afternoon, when I awaken, I get down on my knees and give praise: "Thank you for not persecuting me any more with insomnia.

"Now, do you think you could lay off the other stuff as other well?"

In space, lack of sleep would be grim. Indeed, when I say I'd like to go to space, I envisage myself looking oot the windae of the shuttle or starship, a thrill that would probably pall after about three minutes.

Back indoors, as it were, space would be cramped. Assuming one were not alone on board, other astronauts would be grouchy from lack of sleep too, and doubtless we'd end up fighting over the last packet of reconstituted spaghetti hoops.

I think you also have to be quite mechanically minded to get a job in ooter space these days.

At one point in my life I also fancied going to sea and had envisaged the job as basically just standing aboot on deck wearing a hat with the words "Official sailor" on it.

But when I sent off to the Prime Minister for an application form, it came back with a load of bumf about qualifications required, most of them not related to arts or sociology.

Back in space, there's been talk of giving sleeping pills to astronauts. But experts say that could be dangerous if there were an emergency, such as being attacked by Klingons.

The astronauts will just have to do what I did to get some sleep: chill out, man.

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