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Waking up to the health benefits of sleep

Sleep plays a fundamental role in ensuring our health and wellbeing. In fact a wealth of evidence now exists which concludes that sleep deprivation can be associated with a wide range of conditions including diabetes, depression, obesity, heart attack and cancer.

Despite the importance of sleep, new Populus research for the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) has revealed that the UK public is under-sleeping by an average of almost an hour every night, amounting to an entire night’s sleep over the course of a week.

Findings from this poll of 2,010 UK adults (18+) were included in the RSPH report “Waking up to the health benefits of sleep” report, published earlier this month.

According to the research, the public rates getting enough sleep as the second most important activity for optimising health and wellbeing. Ample sleep was ranked ahead of behaviours such as eating your five a day, exercising and sticking to recommended alcohol guidelines, and came second only to not smoking.

Other findings include:

    • Average sleep time is 6.8 hours, below the average 7.7 hours that people feel they need

    • 54% have felt stressed as a result of poor sleep

    • 36% have eaten unhealthy food as a result of poor sleep

    • 37% have fallen asleep on public transport

Those most at risk from sleep deprivation include new parents, commuters, shift workers, young people and party animals.

The report advocates a much more proactive approach to promoting sleep, treating sleep disorders and minimising the impact of sleep loss on other healthy behaviours. It suggested the introduction of a “slumber number” to provide guidance to the public on roughly how much sleep they should be aiming to achieve according to their age:

Slumber Number

Slumber number

In addition to improving guideline information the RSPH has also called for:

    • The UK Government to publish a national sleep strategy

    • Routine screening for insomnia and training for health and social care professionals

    • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) to be made more available as first line therapy for sleep disorders

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