Nuffield Health’s 2023 ‘Healthier Nation Index’ – a survey of 8,000 UK adults – has highlighted that poor sleep is still a huge issue across the nation. On average Brits are only getting 5.91 hours of sleep a night, this is down from 6.11 in 2022 and 6.19 in 2021.
Of those surveyed, only 36 per cent said their sleep was ‘good’, with the average healthy adult needing between 7.5 – 8.5 hours per night, equating to five sleep cycles.
This means that the remaining 65 percent of those questioned feel that they are not getting good quality sleep. Good quality of sleep is about having the right balance of deep, slow-wave sleep and shallow, rapid eye movement (REM) sleep – where dreaming occurs.
This is especially concerning given 11 percent of respondents only get between 2-4 hours of sleep per night and 36 percent only sleep between 4-6 hours a day. Only 8 percent of us get more than the recommended 8 hours per night.
The study reveals those in the 45-54-year age bracket claim to have the worst sleep, with only 29 percent saying theirs is ‘good’ and with most averaging only 5.72 hours a night. The industries with the worst sleep and least likely to rate theirs as ‘good’ are Retail (32%) and those in HR (34%).
Industries that rated their sleep as the best are I.T. (48%) and Finance (44%), but noticeably for both industries, the statistics are still under half.
These findings are especially pertinent during September’s ‘Sleeptember’, which focuses on promoting better sleep quality.
The results suggest poor sleep quality reduces employee productivity. 37 percent said they were less productive after a poor night’s sleep. It also negatively impacts mental health, especially so in women. 55 percent said poor sleep had a negative impact on their emotional wellbeing, compared to just 41 percent of men.
When examining the different age brackets, it was 35–44-year-olds’ emotional wellbeing, which was most affected by poor sleep. 57 percent said not getting enough, was having a negative impact on their mental health.
The industries whose mental health was most affected by poor sleep include Architecture, Engineering & Building (56%), Education (55%), Retail (53%) and Healthcare (54%).
The relationship between mental health and sleep isn’t entirely understood but according to neurochemistry studies, an adequate night’s sleep helps enhance mental and emotional resilience equally.
Chronic sleep disruptions might generate negative thinking and emotional sensitivity and research suggests poor sleep makes us twice as responsive to stress. It’s also thought treating insomnia may help alleviate the symptoms associated with anxiety and vice versa.
The study suggests there is also a link between sleep and financial wellbeing. As salary increases, so does the percentage of those who rate their sleep as ‘good’.
However, interestingly, there is a drop in one of the salary brackets. 40 percent of those earning between £45-55K reported their sleep as good, but this rating decreased to 36 percent for those earing in the £55-65,000 salary bracket, before increasing again.
Luke Cousins, Physiology Regional Lead, at Nuffield Health said, “There still exists a vital need for employers to be more attuned to the sleep needs of their staff and the potential role it has in improving employee physical and emotional wellbeing if businesses prioritise its importance.
“Companies should collaboratively engage with their healthcare partners to bolster sleep education, and the relevant employee benefits needed to support those struggling.
“Taking a holistic view on health – including offering interventions that cover the full range of risks – is the only way to get back to maximum wellbeing and create a healthier nation.”