Are we getting enough sleep?
We recently conducted our annual Health of the Nation survey, asking respondents from all over the country about everything from their eating and drinking habits, to their mental health and the exercise they do. Well, the results are in, and it seems that sleep is one of the most neglected areas of the nation’s health.
Despite the fact that getting the recommended amount of sleep can actually help to improve your mental health, physical health, quality of life and day to day safety, our nation is falling worryingly short of their nightly dose of shuteye. Doctors routinely recommend seven to eight hours’ sleep per night, for both men and women, but our survey respondents were scrimping on sleep by close to two hours.
On average, our male respondents were getting just 6.4 hours sleep per night, while our female respondents averaged slightly better with 6.5 hours sleep per night. When you delve deeper into these results, however, they get even more surprising…
While we typically see 16 – 24 year olds as devoted night owls, they were actually the age group most likely to meet doctors’ recommendations for sleep. In fact, 20% of 16 – 24 year olds managed to get seven hours sleep per night, while 25% of them reached the full eight hours. Survey respondents from Yorkshire and Wales seemed to follow suit, too, as 22% and 21% respectively reported getting a good eight hours sleep per night, making them the best rested people in the UK. When you consider that 6% of people living in the east and north east of the country reported getting nine whole hours sleep per night, and that 4% of easterners slept for nine hours or more, this isn’t surprising!
Other areas of the country didn’t boast such dedication to their sleeping habits though. While respondents from Northern Ireland averaged 6.3 hours sleep per night, they were still the worst rested in the country and, when you break down their responses, worryingly so. 9% of people from Northern Ireland admitted to sleeping for fewer than four hours per night, while a further 7% managed just four hours.
When we get down to figures like this, we can’t help but see cause for concern. Sleep plays a significant part in the healing and repair of your heart and your blood vessels, and ongoing sleep deficiency has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes and even kidney disease. What’s more, your brain takes sleep as an opportunity to prepare for the day ahead – making sense of the day just passed, forming new pathways and helping you to learn and remember information.
It’s no surprise, then, that sleep deficiency can have a dramatic impact on your waking life, whether it comes in the form of health problems or simple a lack of concentration. It is crucial that, as a nation, we try to get more sleep, which is easier said than done sometimes. With daily stresses weighing on our minds and countless tasks to complete before we crawl under the covers, even drifting off can sometimes prove impossible. This is why we are putting together an additional post full of ways in which we can all get a better night’s sleep, so don’t forget to check back in with the benenden health over the coming weeks.
National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute - Why is Sleep Important?