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Reading in bed - letters

author device category
Bulstrode human (unpaid)
Hand poetic virtual reality
Howell optical
Johnstone mechanical (soft)
Reston mechanical
Rushton optical
Singer ?optical
Spinks mechanical
Stewart sit up
Walker human (unpaid)
Welton human (paid)
Williams A opto-mechanical
Williams I electrical

Christopher Bulstrode, Trauma Surgeon Oxford

The latest edition of Bandolier has fallen under my presbyotic scrutiny. The juxtaposition of Risk management and reading in bed just forces me to write. I enclose a copy of our article polythenia gravis which I think lays out the very important problem rather well (though I do say it myself).
With regard to reading in bed, the solution is simple. I use my wife. (in fact I thought this was what academic wives were for). I wait till she is asleep then prod her gently but judiciously (many years of experience here) until she is in the right position to act as a book- rest. I then retire to my end of the bed where I have: Classic FM on the radio, some Brufen for inexplicable pains in the night, a pile of journals and a note pad for existential crises in the small hours. I can then read in great peace and comfort. I claim my bound set of Bandolier .

PS I haven't found a way of getting her to turn the pages yet. Any of your other readers got any ideas? Yes, I have tried a long feather duster.

PPS Horror of horrors! Woke up the other night to find her doing the same thing to me. What is the world coming to? I am as reasonable as many man but!

PPS Polythenia gravis: the downside of evidence based medicine (perils of reading in bed) BMJ 1995 311:1666-8

The impetus for this case report and study protocol was the admission to hospital of a senior physician with a fractured neck of femur. On the night of the accident the patient had got up to pass water and slipped on a pile of journals still in their plastic wrappers which were lying on the floor beside his bed. The history revealed gradually increasing nocturia compatible with age related benign prostatic hyperplasia. On direct questioning he admitted that he had recently performed a bone densitometry measurement on himself and found a slight reduction of bone density compatible with a male menopause some 10 years earlier. He also admitted that he felt an increasing sense of guilt and inadequacy associated with an inability to keep up with the journals. On the DEWLAP index (see table 1) he scored moderately high for his age. His JASPA score (see table 2) was 5, consistent with a mound of journals kept by the bed, avalanching both under the bed and across the room. The oldest journal in the pile was nearly five years old, and the JOCA (journal cumulative age) index (total number of journals multiplied by the age of each one) was in excess of 100.

The patient made an uneventful recovery after surgery and returned to clinical duties in three months despite being in moderate continuous pain and receiving regular analgesia; his walking distance was only 30 yards. Follow up at this time by the orthopaedic consultant briefly recorded an "excellent result," and the patient was discharged from clinic. Paradoxically there was a significant improvement in his DEWLAP score, perhaps because he was no longer able to get up to London (to attend meetings of college committees) and because ward rounds were abandoned after the first two patients because he could not limp any further. Despite his pain and disability a dramatic overall improvement in his affect was also noted. This followed his decision, after his stay on the orthopaedic ward, to donate all his journals (unread) to needy doctors in Third World countries. His JASPA score fell to 0 after this decision.

Christopher Hand

Bungay, Suffolk

To bed or not to bed, that is the question

Who really needs to read the "B" in bed?
Though slightly better than television,
The're other pleasures to be had instead.
The choice is wide - we need a decision.

How about a novel to entertain?
Dickens or Bronte would help you sleep,
Anything lighter would meet with disdain
As the're more effective than counting sheep.

A tuneful interlude might do as well,
To calm tense minds at the end of the day,
Melodic phrases, crescendos that swell.
There's nothing better than music they say.

At the risk of offending some of you,
How about a night of passion?
As you don't have to do anything new
You won't drop dead - that idea's out of fashion.

How can I justify what I have said?
The confidence interval I require
Comes from experience, not what I've read.
Not quite the evidence that you desire.

Now I will make a sensible suggestion:
Virtual reality is the solution;
It's the answer to your difficult question.
Evidence on the brain with no dilution.

Mrs Janet Howell

Welwyn Garden City

Several months ago, following a Discectomy operation I soon developed very strong arms from reading books on my back for long periods with my arms straight up holding the book horizontally over my head.

During an MRI Scan it occurred to me that the mirror in the scanner would provide an excellent means of reading on ones back. The mirror placed directly over the head projects the sight horizontally out of the scanner. I would imagine it would be quite possible to read a book using this type of apparatus if something could be invented. Glasses may need some adjustment!

Dr Christopher Johnstone


Re: issue 30 and suggestions on how to lie in bed and read with glasses on. May we suggest three ways to get around this problem.
Firstly, we have invented a pillow with a spectacle stand attached. The pillow has a specially designed soft depressed area for the head and specially aligned holder for your glasses. This way both hands are free to read and turn the page. Alternatively, one could buy contact lenses, or my trainee suggests painting the ceiling white and projecting the page onto the ceiling.
If we do not win we will buy the first 20 issues anyway.

Dr Peter Reston


With reference to the problem regarding reading in bed which is raised on the front page of your recent issue. I have discovered, and am considering patenting, the ideal solution just such a problem.

It involves the use of a simple bathroom plunger such as is used for unblocking sinks. The sucker is fixed to a bald patch on top of the skull. If such a patch does not exist a preliminary brush with a razor may be helpful. From the arm of the plunger it is simple to fix a swing structure from which ones spectacles may be suspended. This infallible device means that whenever the head is moved the glasses move accordingly. Two words of warning are required:
1. The drawing pin used for fixing the hinging device must be of a stout nature as otherwise the entire contraption is likely to disintegrate especially if reading at speed with resulting increase in head movement during exciting parts of the book.

2. It is vital that the plunger is removed from the head before finally retiring to sleep as otherwise one tends to wake in the morning looking as if recently delivered by Ventouse extraction.

Whilst I have every intention of making large quantities of money from this invention I thought it only reasonable that I should share it first with my colleagues as a matter of professional courtesy.

D N Rushton

Mile End, London

This can be comfortably achieved by using 90 degree prism glasses. They enable the user to read lying supine and facing the ceiling. The reading matter is held in both hands, resting upright on the stomach. The method is quite commonly used, particularly by those confined to bed with acute back problems.

Paul Singer


Think technology! Into bed, off with the reading glasses, on with the virtual reality specs plugged into your bedside PC network. These are already corrected for refraction errors and controlled by eye movements. Thus select your favourite book, already bookmarked, or the Bandolier internet site etc., and read on in any position. It will of course detect prolonged eye closure and shut down when you nod off........ I'm still thinking about the prohibitive cost of replacement when you wake up next morning to find them crushed under the pillow .... oh well, the cost of progress.

Dr Julian Spinks

Strood, Kent

I am pleased to send you a method of reading in bed. As I used this myself in my hospital days I am glad to say that it is evidence-based!
It requires one of those grey anglepoise lamps found frequently situated above the bed in hospitals. The only other equipment is a bulldog clip and a large chunk of blue tack.
The blue tack is used to stick the clip to the lamp rim. This is aided by the turned in edge of the lamp.
Magazines are then clipped into the bulldog clip. This not only provides an arrangement which can be adjusted to a comfortable distance from the reader, but also gives good illumination to the copy.
Unfortunately more weighty tomes carry the risk of non-indicated surgery to the groin.
Finally I felt I should consider storage of the magazines. In view of the racy content of Bandolier 30 including Sex (Page 2) Drugs (page 5) and Meta-analysis, I feel that the only place is the traditional one - under the mattress.

Dr K R Stewart


Reading in Bed?

Try sitting up!

Mike Walker


You are absolutely correct in your August edition of Bandolier that reading in bed is one of life's great pleasures. I think I may have the solution to the problem you describe, when faced with the need to lie on one side. This is by no means a technological breakthrough; it is an ancient remedy, though one I concede that can be costly (much depends on one's individual circumstances).
The solution is to acquire a partner with a firm and practised reading voice. One can then adopt any lying or resting position and indeed alter it at any time, whilst still listening. There are one or two logistic requirements for the partner, particularly in winter, when a good quality bed jacket or woollen shawl is recommended, together with a woolly hat and mittens, though the latter should not be too think, so that pages can be easily turned.
I doubt if the NHS will be able to offer such a remedy on demand, though I suspect that the private sector will have given it some thought.

R L Welton

Wesham, Lancashire

I read with interest (not in bed) your paragraph under the heading of 'Reading in bed", in which you ask for the best suggestions.
I am afraid that I fail to see your problem. You suggest that there are problems with reading glasses and that there may be a market for lorgnettes, either with right- or left-armed versions. You idly contemplate the use of swivelling book-rests attached to various places around the bedroom. Next you will be talking of "Head up Displays" on the ceiling, autocues (as used by those nice young men and women on the television) or teletext pages for the bedroom TV set. Really, all this is pure irrelevance. I can hardly understand how it arose.
Put quite simply, Jeeves reads the Bandolier to me until I am enveloped in the arms of Morpheus.

Alexander Williams


The answer to this problem lies in the past rather than in the future. Pince-nez are cheaper than swivelling book rests, and, because they do not have to be held up like lorgnettes, leave one's hands free for one's vodka and tonic or steaming Horlicks.

Ian Williams

Sawtry, Cambs

Surely in this age of electronic communication, the only way to read in bed is to project your internet copy of Bandolier on the ceiling and with mouse in hand, read with no contortion or pain!

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