One in seven Brits sleeping for less than five hours a night

Woman tired at desk after not having enough sleep. (Getty Images)
Getting enough sleep each night is a key part of maintaining physical and mental fitness. (Getty Images)

Sleep deprivation is affecting a large percentage of UK adults, with 7.5 million (one in seven) getting under five hours of sleep a night.

Showing the direct impact of this, more than a third (34%) of Brits believe they have physical or mental health problems linked to poor sleep, a new study reveals.

The research suggests the nation could be sleepwalking into a health crisis, with more than half (57%) of participants satisfied with their sleep, despite just 28% having the recommended amount a night.

While everyone needs different amounts of sleep, the NHS suggests adults should get seven to nine hours of shut-eye each night, while children need nine to 13, and toddlers and babies 12 to 17.

Woman struggling to sleep. (Getty Images)
Struggling to sleep? Dr Holly Milling has shared her top 10 tips for dealing with sleep deprivation. (Getty Images)

The Need for Sleep study of 4,000 UK adults, from Direct Line Life Insurance, in partnership with Dr Holly Milling, Clinical Psychologist and founder of The Sleep Practice, found more than 37 million (71%) of people across the country don't get as much sleep as they should.

Worryingly, the average adult sleeps for just six hours and 24 minutes a night. Sleeping for less than seven hours a night has been associated with a range of adverse health outcomes, such as increased heart problems, chronic diseases like diabetes and dementia, depression and weight gain and obesity, as found by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) and Sleep Research Society (SRS).

It's also associated with impaired immune function, increased pain, impaired performance, increased errors and a greater risk of accidents.

Read more: Boxsets in bed can help you get a better night's sleep, a study has found

Watch: Sleep-deprived residents 'going crazy' as tower block alarm rings continuously

The Need for Sleep study found more than a third (36%) of those in poor health have under five hours of sleep compared to just 8% of those who are in good or excellent health.

The findings echo previous research that too little sleep can have an impact on mind and body, as, on top of the third who say they have physical or mental health problems that could be attributed to a lack of sleep, three quarters (75%) of those with a medical condition (5.8 million people) are dissatisfied with their sleep.

Women (48%) were more likely to be dissatisfied with their lumber time than men (39%).

It seems age makes a difference too, with young people being most likely to believe their health has suffered due to being sleep deprived. Nearly half of 18-34 year olds report seeing their health take a toll due to sleep compared to just 13% of those over 75.

Read more: These viral sleep hacks could solve your shut-eye

Tired young man. (Getty Images)
Younger adults are more likely to suffer from a lack of sleep. (Getty Images)

Dr Holly Milling said, "The science is clear: sleep is one of the biggest health investments we can make. It is so important for our physical and psychological health and our study highlights the need we have as a society to change our relationship with sleep.

"We need to stop seeing sleep as a luxury and start seeing it as a necessity. If you want to improve your health and wellbeing in 2022, the best piece of advice I can give is to start with sleep, as healthy sleep offers a solid foundation for everything else.

"Those goals you set will be so much more successful if they're based on a good night's sleep."

Read more: Bad night's sleep linked to feeling 'decades older'

Perhaps an attitude shift is needed also, as the study suggests society does not prioritise sleep, with over 16 million people (31%) feeling they could drift off for longer but value free time more. Some 15.7 million people (30%) believe their lifestyle is the biggest obstacle to better sleep, with it being important to remember many also don't have the luxury of getting the recommended amount, for factors such as work, childcare or health conditions.

For those struggling with their sleep, who are able to try and improve it, Dr Holly Milling has shared her 10 top tips for dealing with sleep deprivation, which are as follows...

Man setting his alarm clock in bed. (Getty Images)
'Healthy sleep loves consistency,' says Dr Holly Milling. (Getty Images)
  1. Prioritise sleep: When it comes to supporting your physical and mental health, sleep is more powerful than diet and exercise combined

  2. Try to wake up at the same time each day (even at weekends!). Healthy sleep loves consistency and waking up the same time helps to regulate your body clock (circadian rhythm), which in turn will help your sleep

  3. Access some natural light in the mornings whenever possible

  4. Avoid drinking caffeine after lunchtime

  5. Create a wind down period in the hour before bedtime, to allow your body and mind to transition from the activities of the day to night time and rest

  6. Reduce screens and brighter lights later in the evenings to minimise blue light exposure

  7. Check that you have a healthy sleep environment. Cool, dark, quiet bedrooms are ideal

  8. Go to bed only when you feel sleepy, not just tired, so you aren’t lying awake in bed

  9. Address stress; stress and anxiety can really disrupt sleep. We have been facing many significant stressors as a society in the last couple of years so it can be helpful to build a toolkit of strategies that help you calm and soothe your stress levels

  10. If you’re struggling to sleep, waking up feeling unrefreshed or experiencing extreme daytime sleepiness on a regular basis, talk to your GP or a sleep specialist. It may be that you have a sleep disorder, which may need more specialist support.

You might have a sleep condition, such as insomnia, if you regularly find it hard to fall asleep, wake up several times during the night, lie awake at night, wake up early and can't get back to sleep, still feel tired after waking up, find it hard to nap during the day even though you're tired, feel tired and irritable during the day, and find it difficult to concentrate during the day – find out more via the NHS website.