Sleep News

What’s Keeping Britain Awake?

An image of Danielle Mowbray
05 Jun 20184 min read
  • A third of Brits are in sleep debt
  • Two thirds of Brits are being kept awake by relationship or work stress
  • 90% of us check social media just before bed
  • 70% of 18-24 year olds would choose social media over sleep

A third of Brits are in sleep debt

In recommendations from the Sleep Foundation, no age group should get less than 7 hours sleep. But in our survey, we found that a third of Brits get less than 7 hours a night, on a regular basis.

How much sleep Brits really get image showing percentages

The real cost of sleep debt

Sleep loss costs the UK economy over £30bn a year in lost revenue. But in an age of distraction, where you’re often seen as lazy if you take a rest, and where there’s a tendency to boast about how little sleep you can survive on, how do we get things to change?

Are you in sleep debt?

Sleep debt refers to the cumulative deficit of not getting enough sleep. If you’re losing just 2-3 hours of sleep for two or three nights a week, that’s the same as pulling an all-nighter. It doesn’t sound like much but when you skimp on sleep, your reaction times become slower, your brain doesn’t function as well affecting memory, decision-making and reasoning and you become more susceptible to illness.

The disruption of our sleep is now linked to mental health problems

A recent study published in The Lancet journal highlighted that people who experience disrupted cycles of rest and activity are more likely to have mood disorders. It’s not just the physical disruption that’s a problem though. Bhavin Shah, who works at Central Vision Opticians in London reminds us; "There are other issues, such as the content that people access and addictive nature of social media that also affect stimulation and keep people awake."

Why aren’t we sleeping?

The reasons we aren’t sleeping are quite clear from our survey. Work stress was cited as the most common factor, but a significant number of people also said that binge watching TV and scrolling through social media had an effect on their ability to sleep.

Two thirds of Brits are being kept awake by relationship or work stress

Our survey showed that both work and relationship stress, two of the most common factors of daily life were our biggest reasons for lying awake at night, with money worries not far behind.

Image showing survey results from the questions What has kept you awake in the last 12 months?

Symptoms of stress

Feeling frazzled is a common affliction of modern life, but the knock-on effects can be hazardous to our health and harm the quality of our daily lives. Stress is often played down but can show up in so many different ways that the possible side effects are endless. Sleep loss, depression, anxiety, upset stomach, dizziness, panic attacks, chest and back pain – to name but a few of the symptoms stress can cause.

Controlling stress

Controlling your stress is important and a large part of that is getting the sleep you need. This can help change your mood and boost your immune system, helping you fight infections and lower blood pressure. Read more about how stress can affect your sleep and positive ways to cope with it on our blog.

90% of us check social media just before bed

Social media is the last thing we do before bed and can lead to more stress, physically, mentally and emotionally.

Graph showing the survey results for the question, Is the last thing you do before you go to sleep look at social media?

Using social media late at night can affect our sleeping patterns. The blue light emitted from your phone, laptop or other hand-held device inhibits the pineal gland. Behavioural optometrist Bhavin Shah, who specialises in the way we use our eyes says; "The pineal gland regulates and produces the hormone Melatonin to send signals for us to sleep. The inhibition from blue light is essential during the day because it keeps us awake, but at night, when the light is low, the production should increase so we sleep. The blue light from screens therefore keeps people awake for longer."

Image showing survey results for the question What do you worry about when on social media?

The Social Media Paradox

There’s a social media paradox according to digital detox site It’s supposed to be all about connecting people, but instead, it sucks our attention. Did anyone really join a social media network to like and share cat videos? Did they join Twitter to have endless arguments or did they join Instagram to feel more uneasy about their body?

20.5% of our survey respondents said that they compared their self and their lives to others on social media, worrying most about their body or attractiveness. And it’s no wonder when 90% of us are checking our social media before we sleep.

Technology hurts

It’s been well reported that our mobile phones, TVs and handheld devices can disrupt our sleep. They emit a blue light that affects the levels of sleep-inducing hormone melatonin and the changes to our sleep patterns upset our natural circadian rhythm.

Shifts in our body clock can have devastating repercussions on other functions and organs in the body, increasing our risk of serious medical conditions such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes, so you’d think that more of us would make an effort to take a break from these blue light emitting devices.

70% of 18-24 year olds would choose social media over sleep

Graph showing the survey results for the questions, Would you impose a social media ban after 7pm if you knew it would improve your sleep?

Despite the overwhelming evidence to show that social media has a negative effect on sleep, both because of the technology involved and the effects on mental and emotional health, 20% of 18-24 year olds would not consider banning the use of their phones or any social media after 7pm – even if they knew it would improve the quality of their sleep.

Digital detox

This worrying statistic points towards an addiction of devices and platforms. Maybe it’s time for digital detox. If you’re suffering from poor sleep, follow our tips below to help detach from the online and virtual world and sink into a slumber that will make you happier and healthier.

7 top tips for a restful sleep

Practice mindfulness or meditation before bed

Just a few minutes a day of deep breathing can help relax your body and mind.

Keep your phone out of the bedroom

Most of us charge our phones overnight, often right beside us on the bedside table. Try charging your phone in a different room, making it impossible to pick up and check last thing at night or indeed through the night.

Avoid stimulants

Caffeine, sleeping pills, cigarettes and alcohol all have short-term benefits but are bad in the long run for your sleep, quality of sleep and sleep patterns. There are lots of bedtime drinks you can choose from that encourage sleep.

If you can’t sleep, get up

Lying in bed for hours trying to sleep only makes the problem worse, so if you find yourself tossing and turning, get up and do something. Listen to music, have a warm milky drink or try reading a book. Stay away from screens!

Don’t eat too late

A light snack before bedtime can help you fall asleep. Rice, oats and dairy products can help feelings of sleepiness but as a general rule, try not to eat anything too heavy around 2 hours before you go to bed as this can lead to indigestion, acid reflux and general discomfort.

Be active

Exercising vigorously late at night can stimulate us too much and keep us awake but incorporating more activity into your daily life can help our overall well-being.

Check your mattress

Mattresses should be changed every 7 years to provide the best support and comfort. There are many different types of mattresses to help with certain conditions, such as back problems and to regulate temperature. It’s important to invest in a mattress that will suit your needs.