Sleep goes down as one of those key life essentials in the same camp as eating and breathing, yet the rhythm of modern day life seems to be increasingly throwing our natural sleeping patterns out of whack. According to a report published today by leading market intelligence agency Mintel , 39 per cent of us fail to clock up the recommended seven hours (the average night’s sleep for Brits is six hours, 51 minutes), with 50 per cent of us relaying that we regularly struggle to get to sleep. Under a quarter of us (23 per cent) hit the sweet spot of eight hours, and a small but still shocking five per cent of us are going about our business having banked just four hours sleep or less. To sum up the severity of our collective sleep debt, 47 per cent of Brits declare that they would “try anything” to improve the quality of their sleep.
This sleep deprivation seems to be hitting one particular demographic particularly hard, as Mintel Personal Care Analyst Hera Crossan explains:
“The middle-aged group are particularly struggling with sleep and there are several factors playing into their sleep reduction, ranging from the hormonal disruption of menopause to the stress and lack of time caused by raising children and looking after elderly parents, as well as balancing employment. This ‘sandwich generation’ is struggling to find time to go to bed, and struggling to get enough hours of sleep once they get there.”
Six hours and 34 minutes is the average daily amount of sleep for adults within the 45-54 age groups, and a third of women across all age groups experience problems both getting to sleep and staying that way: waking throughout the night is common, whereas 38 per cent of men have no such sleep issues. Unsurprisingly, only 46 per cent of us describe feeling refreshed and well-rested when we wake up, yet 81 per cent agree that sleep constitutes a vital element of a healthy lifestyle. So just what’s getting in the way of a good night’s kip?
While getting stuck in an Instagram scroll hole or sucked into a Netflix binge does play a part (34 per cent blame technology use before bed for their poor sleep status), it’s actually noise pollution that’s posing the biggest risk to a night of R&R, with 59 per cent of Brits putting their sleeplessness down to noisy interruptions. The likes of street lights and flimsy blinds keep 57 per cent awake, while 29 per cent are disturbed by a partner in bed, and 22 per cent list pain as the main cause of sleep deprivation, which is a pretty alarming stat in itself.
Negative attitudes towards the prioritising of rest and recuperation aren’t helping matters either, as Hera underlines:
“Everyday stresses and strains appear to be making it harder for UK adults to switch off when they finally fall into bed, putting them at risk of developing long-term physical and mental health issues. To an extent, a lack of sleep has become almost acceptable; as more and more tasks fill the day, time in bed is increasingly viewed as a luxury that can be relinquished when necessary.”
As we increasingly understand the vital role of the body clock within human health and the development of disease , here’s hoping that there’s a greater importance placed on the value of sleep in our 24/7, ‘always on’ culture, and the future looks bright in terms of many of us using our own initiatives and seeking support to address sleep problems. Brits are now more likely to make sleep-promoting lifestyle adjustments over taking sleeping pills or pharmaceutical sleep aids according to Mintel, with 43 per cent agreeing that lifestyle changes are essential to establishing healthy sleep hygiene. As such, 54 per cent dodge stimulants such as caffeine and alcohol late in the day, while 47 per cent schedule in exercise as a means by which to improve sleep that night. Half of us find that an evening bath or shower increases drowsiness, with 46 per cent reading a book or magazine in bed in order to nod off faster and 21 per cent reporting sleep success by way of aromatherapy . The mindfulness trend has also made its way into our bedrooms- 39 per cent of us use mindfulness techniques to induce slumber. Counting sheep has clearly come on a bit.
Still having difficulty getting to sleep despite aromatherapy baths and snooze-worthy reads? Here’s how our resident insomniac finally broke the sleeplessness cycle