UK productivity suffers due to nation’s poor sleep habits

phone in bed

A new survey found that 46 per cent get stressed more easily and one in four people in full time employment feel less in control at work after a poor night’s sleep.

Furthermore, 40 per cent of people claim they “often feel tired”. This also comes at a time when we are seeing the UK’s productivity lag way behind other economies, suggesting that our nation’s sleep habits are not just affecting us individually, but may be having a serious knock on impact on the UK economy.

Half of those questioned are getting a maximum of six hours sleep a night. This falls short of recommendations put forward by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH), who have devised a “Slumber Number”, stating 18-64 year olds need an average of 7-9 hours a night. The RSPH is urging the UK government to deliver a national strategy to urgently address the nation’s under-sleeping habits. Regular poor sleep is known to increase the risk of serious medical conditions, including obesity, heart disease and diabetes, as well as shortening your life expectancy.

Further findings from the new research looking at the cause of poor sleep, have shown that a third of people in full time work are losing sleep because they feel they have too many demands on their time, while 30 per cent are kept awake by unfinished to do lists and 11 per cent by having too many emails in their inbox.

A quarter of young adults, aged 16-24, claim they are often going to bed later than planned because they are working late and a third stay up browsing the internet.

Sleep expert, Dr Neil Stanley comments: “Many people are stuck in a vicious cycle. Poor sleep habits make people less productive in the workplace and when suffering with sleepiness, they often find it harder to make critical decisions. We then see people taking work home with them, sometimes working late into the night. This in turn can disrupt sleep for the following night. “

In our “always available” culture, the impact of technology on sleep is becoming increasingly problematic. Some experts believe that blue light emitted from screens affects the production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin, which is causing an increase in sleep disturbances. It is therefore not surprising that sleep disturbances are becoming increasingly common when research has shown that one in five people living in London check their email at least five times an hour.

Almost a quarter of 16-24 year olds and a fifth of people aged 25-34 are browsing the internet and checking emails between 11pm-1am. Furthermore, 23 per cent of young people go on social media and 26 per cent browse the internet when they are having trouble sleeping.

Dr Stanley continues: “People now commonly turn to devices as a means of distraction when they are struggling to drop off to sleep. However, this is likely to be making the situation worse. There are three vital steps to help ensure you have a restful night’s sleep – an environment conducive to sleep, a relaxed body and a quiet mind. Going to bed and waking up at a regular time can also help to avoid sleep disturbances. When you are out of a normal sleep pattern, sleep aids** can be helpful for some people to re-establish a normal rhythm by teaching your body when it is time to sleep.”

Additional findings from the research showed that despite the impact sleep deprivation, 27 per cent of people would choose to do nothing about not being able to sleep on a regular basis. The same proportion of people would be likely to try a natural/herbal remedy. However, a huge proportion were unable to identify any natural active ingredients that can help to induce sleep: 89 per cent were unaware that valerian helps to induce sleep, 96 per cent were unaware of hops and 98 per cent of passion flower.