The Blog

Is Sleep A Basic Human Right?

Photo by Stuart Gleave via Getty Images

It's 6.17 on Wednesday morning. It's dark and quiet.

Yesterday Prime Minister Theresa May gave the go-ahead to the third runway at Heathrow.

"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can

And the wisdom to know the difference'

Last night a rare thing happened; there were no planes in the skies directly above our home. Last night I enjoyed the peace and quiet. I came home from a day's work, played with my kids and put them to bed. I made dinner, watched TV and went to bed before 10pm. I slept right through to 5.25am. 7 and a half hours. Absolute luxury.

This morning as I sit here quietly writing I wonder when the next plane will come. Although it's been peaceful I've also been anxious about when the next plane will thunder and whirr across the skies of our once quiet suburb. Not quite Stockholm Syndrome but certainly a strong sense of Chinese water torture.

Life is a challenge, right? It's meant to be. Nothing wrong with that. Taking on daily challenges gives us daily growth. In life there are many situations where we need to 'step up to the plate'. Where we exercise the courage to change the things we can.

And then there are other situations where the opposition is so unreasonable and abusive that despite the injustice the only option is to remove yourself from harm's way. As Mr Miyagi famously said "Best way to avoid punch is not to be there".

I just heard a tweet of birdsong. I can't remember the last time I heard such a thing. That's what my kids should be waking up to, not the thunder and roar of planes rattling the window frames in our house.

It's really hard to encapsulate and explain what this all means. I work hard in a capitalist system. I put in the hours, I sell my expertise to the highest bidder, I put my litter in the bin and I pay my mortgage. When our twins were born we pulled out all our savings and increased our mortgage to refurbish our house to ensure we could stay in our community and be within the catchment area of the local school.

And yet somehow over the last 5-7 years the plane noise has become louder and more frequent, starting earlier in the morning and running till later at night.

A typical day in my life now means being woken up at 6.17 by a plane flying directly overhead. And it's not just flying. It's climbing, and whirring. It's flying low and slow. I've always been a good sleeper but this early plane wakes me up in the morning before I want to get up, and that's an imposition. Imagine if a neighbour stood outside your house and beat a metal bin lid with a length of wood. You'd tell them to clear off, right? You'd be rightfully furious. If they did it the next day you'd call the police and expect them to be removed and contained.

How then is it acceptable for these planes to wake up what must be hundreds of thousands of people who didn't ask for it?

The truth is that I would normally get up around 6.30 anyway, but the issue here is that I want to be the person who chooses when I wake up.

And that's not the worst of it. It's the evenings that are so unbearable.

Last night there were no planes so when my TV programme had finished I quietly went up to bed, shut my eyes and slept for 7 and a half hours. That's probably the longest I've slept for weeks. No kidding.

The usual scenario is that planes run until 11.30 or so, and quite often there are a few stragglers through till past 1am, which gives me a window of precisely 5 hours to get my night's sleep in.

Should it be a luxury to have quiet evenings and mornings in my own home? Should it be the exception to the rule that I can occasionally clock up seven and a half hours sleep?

I'm no politician but I saw a quote from Theresa May in which she said "the third runway would undermine climate targets and seriously damage the health of the local community." Obviously she no longer cares about climate targets or the local community.

What do you do when that's your country's leadership speaking? Is that the time to ask God to grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change?

Do the people making these decisions live under the flight path? Or are they able to choose when to go to sleep between the end of one working day and the beginning of another.

The near-constant noise is a major issue. And no, you can't just put ear plugs in because then you can't hear your children if they cry in the night. And why should you have to take measures anyway? Is it not a basic human right to be able to get a good night's sleep?

And you want to use my taxes to build another runway? Is everyone here crazy?

Yesterday Prime Minister Theresa May gave the go-ahead to the Third Runway at Heathrow. Yesterday I called Samaritans.