Sunday, 20 August 2017

Dressing down in a dressing gown – the naked truth

Early one morning last week I was out walking with Cello. The sun hadn’t yet got round to warming things up and it felt like winter had arrived. I was in a world of my own thinking about the day ahead. Out of the corner of my eye I saw someone coming out of their cottage, cross the road and root around in their car boot. As I got closer I could see it was a female and she was still wearing her pyjamas. She didn’t seem the least embarrassed to see me and even said good morning as she went back inside her house. I on the other hand, felt like some kind of inadvertent voyeur, and did feel strangely embarrassed.

I don’t know why, but then again I'm not alone. I recalled the public debate on social media last year when a chap called Chris Cooke posted a picture of two women shopping in the Salford Tesco’s and complained loudly that Tesco should ban anyone dressed as such in their pyjamas and dressing gowns. As far as I know Tesco have not actively enforced the ban that it introduced in 2010. They were later than the UAE, who banned the wearing of bed wear to work in 2006. Back in the UK, the Daily Mail, a paper dedicated to protecting our morality and our human rights, sent out two of their female reporters in their pyjamas to see where they could get into and where they might be barred. The Houses of Parliament were no problem, nor Harrods, The Ritz, the National Gallery or even Pret a Manger – all of which let them come in and go about their business.

The issue divided the UK into two groups - with one group seeing the dressing down in pyjamas as indicative of people’s slovenliness, laziness and disrespect for others, whilst the other side saw the fun side, talked about free choice and welcomed the new fashion fad. Nigella Lawson admitted to enjoying all-day pyjama parties and former Conservative Prime Minister, David Cameron admitted he liked to lounge around in his pyjamas, if working from home. I think I side with the fun loving group as do two of my grandsons who like nothing more than to get changed into ‘onesies’ and playing outside in them, and yes, going shopping in them to Tesco’s.

However, whilst increasingly pyjamas might be our favourite item of clothing, perversely actually sleeping in pyjamas (the reason we have pyjamas) is actually bad for our health. Now I have, in fairness at this point, to declare a personal interest – I haven’t worn pyjamas since I was 11 years old, and the last time was when I was admitted to hospital to have my appendix removed. I feel somewhat alone in my naked sleep mode. According to the American Academy of Sleep 92% of people globally go to bed wearing pyjamas.

Thankfully the science is with me. Research suggests that our bodies are designed to cool down while we sleep – wearing pyjamas can actually keep us to warm, which for many people will disrupt their sleep cycle. Those who sleep naked have better diets and increased happiness levels – and also due to released hormones naked sleepers can wake up feeling sexier. Feeling sexier aside, there are a number of surprisingly important public health issues to think about when it comes to deciding what you might wear in bed.

Generally, it is better to let what my Mother might call the ‘nether regions’ or ‘down there’ to breathe in order to prevent bacteria from gathering. Men who have liberated themselves from wearing pyjamas, but still want to wear something (underwear) are more at risk than women, (but for different reasons). Whilst a cool body at night helps keep blood pressure regulated, the prevailing perception is that men who wear tightly fitting pyjamas and/or underwear at night have a heightened risk of their fertility being affected. For women, the potential problems of wearing pyjamas to bed are more to do with the possibilities of yeast-borne infections – but it has to be said the risk to most women is very low.

I think that given the word pyjama has been around since 1800 (taken from the Urdu pay-jama) as a fashion statement, public health issue, and/or a way of expressing our sexual being, we might still have some way to go!