Wake-up call: is the government now listening to university experts?

A popular science book has transformed public health advice on sleep. But how often does this happen?

Steve Brine, a former public health minister, was intrigued when he spotted a fellow train passenger reading Matthew Walker’s bestseller Why We Sleep. He picked up a copy of the popular science book, which argues that sleeping a eight hours per night can transform physical and mental health, and subsequently pushed to include guidance on minimum sleep hours in the government’s health green paper.

“I was really struck by what it said,” says Brine. “It was a good piece of work that landed at the right time with the right person, who was prepared to take on officials rolling their eyes at ministers. I also had a fair amount of credibility in the public health space so they were probably prepared to listen, and Matt [Hancock, the health secretary] was prepared to back me.”

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