Apparently people who sleep naked are happier than everyone else. But the reason may be more complicated than we think...
There was thought-provoking news for lovers this month. It was reported that people who sleep naked have happier relationships. In a survey of 1,000 Britons, 57% of naked sleepers reported feeling “happy” in love, the most in any group. The cotton-promoting body that commissioned the study explained its findings with all the creepy gravitas of Peter Stringfellow giving a physics lecture: “Bedding can feel extremely soft against the skin, encouraging openness and intimacy between couples and ultimately increasing happiness.”
If this is true, not only does it mean that nocturnal nudists are happier in love, it also means that’s because they’re the kind of insatiate bonobos who become aroused at the mere caress of a flat sheet from Debenhams. I can’t help having my doubts. Perhaps there is some other key to contentment. You know, one that isn’t mad and from a made-up-sounding survey.
I don’t want to sound too down on nudity. Full disclosure: sometimes I think boobs look like scary eyes. But generally, technically, theoretically, I’m in favour. Some of history’s most inspiring people were also nudists. William Blake, Walt Whitman, even Benjamin Franklin, who apparently used to call letting it all hang out an “air bath”.
I once made a TV show about an installation by the artist Spencer Tunick, who makes his work out of the naked flesh of human beings. Above the sparkling Tyne, 1,700 people stripped off at dusk and lay across the Millennium Bridge between Gateshead and Newcastle. It was a beautiful and affecting sight. Milling around before and after the installation took place, chatting to the participants, I learned two things: 1) Nudity is completely unsexy when you are surrounded by it; and 2) Never interview a man who is sitting bare-arsed on a bar stool live on television. His squashed-up devil’s bagpipes will be right in your eyeline and it will be terribly distracting.
You see, I can’t help thinking there is such a thing as too much information about other people’s bodies, even the body you love the most. Naturists will be the first to tell you that their yen to disrobe has nothing to do with sex, and that makes sense. Total, casual nakedness is not sexy. Sure, it’s a physical experience, but so is a trip to the dentist’s or a forward roll.
Almost-nakedness, however – in both the “practically” and “about to be” senses – that’s where all the hot lives. (Unless you’re a gentleman who has accidentally ended up taking his T-shirt off last. Easily done but seldom a great look). There should be a little push and pull during the transition from public to private to intimate. It’s part of the fun.
Speaking of which, surely fun is the real key to a happy relationship? Not, like, sheets, as the people who are selling sheets seem so keen to suggest. Perhaps (stay with me on this) people who sleep naked are pretty relaxed, generally quite happy with themselves. Glass-half-full types who greet a clipboard-wielding surveyor with a cheery “Of course I’ve got a few minutes to answer some questions about my sleeping habits! Nothing could be more delightful!” rather than desperately trying to avoid eye contact or pretending their mobile is ringing. Maybe such people have happy relationships, are more apt to describe them that way, and it’s nothing to do with how naked they are.
In the words of noted sage Jermaine Stewart: “We don’t have to take our clothes off/To have a good time (OH NO)/We can dance and party/All night/And drink some cherry wine (UH HUH)”.
So wear whatever you like to bed so long as you’re having it (fun).
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010