Ever since a certain Iron Lady boasted of getting by on just four hours of sleep a night, spending a whole night in bed has become something of a symbol of laziness. But, while skipping those Zs might seem like a good idea for productivity, the damage done by sleep deprivation far outweighs having a bit of extra time in our day.
According to leading neuroscientists, the Western world is in the middle of a sleep deprivation epidemic. With the advent of longer working hours, light pollution, handheld tech,and higher stress levels than ever, we simply aren’t getting enough sleep. In fact, in 1942, less than 8% of the population slept for less than six hours a night; nowadays, nearly one in two people do.
Sleep deprivation is characterised as the accumulation of ‘sleep debt’ – in other words, any night you get less than the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep an adult needs to function properly. As this sleep debt builds, the body starts to suffer both mentally and physically; typical symptoms include a loss of impulse control, weight gain, a weakened immune system, clumsiness, breakouts and impaired cognitive functions such as concentration, problem-solving, memory creation and recall. In the long term, sleep deprivation has also been linked to cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes and mental health issues.
“It’s been proven that a lack of sleep can cause so many physical symptoms like weight gain, increased blood pressure, dementia risks and lower immunity,” says Nicky Marshall, Director of Wellbeing at Discover Your Bounce Group. “Mentally we become more negative and unable to make our best decisions when we are tired.”
According to The Sleep Council’s Great British Bedtime Report, a study into the sleeping habits of over 5,000 Britons, our modern lifestyle is simply not geared to a good night’s sleep. The study found that this tended to come down to five key factors:
25% of adults in the UK are now turning to alcohol in the evenings to help them sleep, in comparison to 16% in 2013. That’s an increase from one in six to one in four. Men were found to be more likely to use this tactic, with 30% of men using alcohol to sleep compared to 20% of women. ‘Generation X’ – those aged between 45 and 54 – were found to be the biggest drinkers, with 30% saying they drank to help them sleep.
Unfortunately, while a glass of wine might feel like it helps you nod off more easily, alcohol actually has a negative effect on the quality of your sleep – disrupting your sleep cycle and leaving you feeling even less rested than before. Instead, positive exercises like meditation and deep breathing can be far more effective. “Tell yourself, ‘I always sleep well’. Even when you don’t, keep saying it – what we think about comes about!” says Nicky. “Use techniques such as meditation or breathing – breathe in for the count of four, hold for six and breathe out for seven – to get you in a calm state.”
According to the study, almost three quarters of Brits get less than seven hours sleep a night, and the number of people who say they sleep for less than five hours a night has grown from 7% to 12% in just four years. With so many Brits suffering from sleep deprivation, it could be that many people simply aren’t aware of how many hours they need to sleep to avoid impairment on their mental and physical health. Ignore the myth that no sleep makes you more hard-working; sleep deprivation has a huge impact on your ability to problem solve and concentrate, so more sleep makes for a much more efficient worker!
More than one in ten people surveyed blamed a lack of sleep on having an uncomfortable bed, with more than two thirds of mattresses found to be over three years old, and 29% more than seven years old. Sagging, uncomfortable mattresses will not only affect your sleep but also have a detrimental effect on your posture and spinal health. A new supportive mattress will help to combat this.
It’s not all bad news for the modern generation! Surprisingly, Britons were found to be turning away from tech before bedtime, probably in response to a greater awareness of the detrimental effect of blue light on sleep. Using laptops or tablets, checking emails and watching TV have all dropped since 2013, with more people turning to music and meditation to help them sleep.
Last but very much not least, stress was unsurprisingly found to be one of the biggest factors affecting sleep, with women far more likely to be kept awake at night by stress than men (51% of women in comparison to 39% of men). Again, meditation is a great way to take your mind off those negative thoughts and help you drift off peacefully.
While we can’t take away your stress (or your smartphone!), we can help you find the best bed and mattress for whisking you off to the Land of Nod. Plus, if you come in store to buy one of our new Millbrook Perfect Range, you’ll even receive a free Garmin tracker. We hope that helps with the peace of mind you need for a peaceful night’s sleep!