Sleeping 6 hours a night leads to an annual deficit of 30 days a year

Tired woman, who hasn't had enough sleep. (Getty Images)
Tired? Brits are experiencing a sleep deficit. (Getty Images)

Tired? You're not alone with a new report revealing Brits are getting by on just six hours of sleep each night, which works out to an annual sleep deficit of a whopping 30 days.

That's effectively an entire month of shuteye we're missing out on every year. It's little wonder therefore that as many of 90% of us feel permanently exhausted.

Brits aged 45-59-years old experience the most unsettled nights – four a week, according to the study by Lingo, a metabolic health and coaching app.

Turns out this ongoing sleep deprivation is having an impact on our overall health with two thirds (64%) feeling sluggish after a bad night’s snooze, 39% unable to concentrate at work, over one in three (36%) struggling with brain fog and 35% feeling permanently stressed out (35%).

While everyone needs different amounts of sleep, the NHS suggests adults should get seven to nine hours of shuteye each night and consistently not doing so is having some pretty far reaching impacts on hour health and wellbeing.

"In the short term, the sleep deficit not only affects your mood but can throw off your productivity and general wellbeing," explains Denise Iordache, sleep therapist and founder of JoySpace Therapy.

According to a report by the UK's Royal Society for Public Health other short-term consequences include increased stress levels, reduced concentration, and emotional wellbeing.

Woman struggling to sleep. (Getty Images)
Brits are experiencing a sleep deficit thanks to only getting 6 hours of rest a night. (Getty Images)

"Long-term consequences are more alarming," warns Iordache. "With studies suggesting a link between chronic sleep deprivation and an elevated risk of developing serious health conditions such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and obesity. Research conducted by the University of Leeds highlighted the long-term health implications of inadequate sleep, including an increased likelihood of obesity and metabolic disorders.

"Moreover, chronic sleep deficits may compromise the immune system, making individuals more susceptible to infections. A study by the University of Warwick and University College London found that consistently sleeping fewer than six hours a night may be associated with an increased risk of early death."

Of course, one way many of us try to combat this ongoing lack of ZZZs is to try to catch up on the shuteye we're missing out on by sleeping for longer at the weekend.

Sadly, however, this isn't going to work.

"I am sorry to bust this myth, but while a weekend sleep-in may feel like a mini-vacation for your body, it’s not a complete solution," explains Iodache.

A study, published in the journal Sleep, emphasises that while weekend recovery sleep may temporarily address some deficits, it does not fully reverse the negative effects of chronic sleep deprivation.

"Think of it as a bonus rather than a fix. Also, we do not have a 'sleep bank' where we can store sleep for those times when we need it most," Iodache adds.

"Short naps (20-30 minutes) may be a better fit if you need a little pick-me-up during the day. Just remember, regular and sufficient sleep is your real superhero for maintaining optimal health."

Thankfully, Iodache says there are some actions you can take to improve your snoozing and plug the sleep deficit.

Sleep deprived woman. (Getty Images)
Brits are missing out on 30 days of sleep a year. (Getty Images)

How to tackle the sleep deficit

Establish a consistent sleep wake cycle

This is like giving your body a warm, comforting hug. The National Sleep Foundation recommends going to bed and waking up at the same time daily, even on weekends, creating a sense of predictability your body loves.

Introduce calm into your bedtime routine

Developing calming rituals before bedtime, such as cosying up with a good book, stretching or practicing some relaxation exercises (progressive muscle relaxation comes to mind) to tell your body it's time to wind down are extremely beneficial. "Other calming techniques to include in your routine would be mindfulness and sleep hypnosis practices," Iodache adds.

Ditch the tech

Screen time can be a sneaky sleep thief. Researchers found that limiting exposure to blue light from screens before bed can make a world of difference.

Up the natural light

At the other end of the spectrum, studies show adequate exposure to natural light during the day, especially in the first few moments when you wake up in the morning can help regulate the sleep-wake cycle. "So don’t be afraid to step outside, even if it is for 20 minutes or so everyday," Iodache adds.

Woman waking up from a good night's sleep. (Getty Images)
There are some adjustments you can make to help bridge the sleep deficit. (Getty Images)

Exercise regularly

Researchers in Sleep Health found that a bit of exercise can go a long way. "Getting moving with regular physical activity is like giving your sleep quality a friendly boost," Iodache explains. "Just avoid anything too vigorous right before bedtime."

Evaluate and adjust lifestyle

Assess factors such as stress, diet, and work commitments that may contribute to sleep deficits, and make necessary adjustments. "Research emphasises the role of stress management in improving sleep," Iodache explains. "Identifying and addressing sources of stress, adopting a balanced diet, and creating a comfortable sleep environment are integral components of a comprehensive sleep improvement plan."

Seek expert advice

If you're still struggling to sleep Iodache recommends seeking guidance from a sleep therapist who can provide personalised strategies, aligned with a focused approach to enhance sleep wellness.

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