Tired all the time? You may not be getting enough sleep

A survey into the state of British sleep patterns has confirmed we are a nation of terrible sleepers.

Carried out by sleep aid manufacturer Nytol, the survey suggests 50 percent of adults are only getting a maximum of six hours’ sleep a night – which falls short of the Royal Society for Public Health’s recommendations (adults aged 18 – 64 need an average of 7 – 9 hours a night, the RSPH advises).

Not just that, but four out of 10 of us claim we often feel tired – which isn’t surprising, given the fact that at least half of us aren’t getting the sleep we need. Not getting enough sleep is affecting people’s effectiveness at work too, with a quarter admitting they operate at half their capacity or less after a poor night sleep and one in four full-time employees feeling less in control after sleeping badly. And it’s making us more stressed – according to the survey, 46 percent of those who were asked say they get stressed more easily whenever they don’t get enough sleep.

Stress and lack of focus is just the tip of the iceberg, however. According to the NHS, regular poor sleep increases your risk of serious medical conditions, including obesity, heart disease and diabetes, while shortening your life expectancy.

Work overload

The survey also reveals that work is one of the causes of the nation’s poor sleeping habits. A third of those in full-time work say they’re losing sleep because they feel they have too many demands on their time. Meanwhile 30 percent say unfinished to-do lists are keeping them awake, and 11 percent blame their sleep problems on having too many emails in their inbox.

Of those aged 16 – 24, a quarter say they often go to bed later than planned because they’re working late.

“Many people are stuck in a vicious cycle,” says Dr Neil Stanley, a sleep expert who has been involved in sleep research for more than 34 years.

“Poor sleep habits make people less productive in the workplace. And when suffering with sleepiness, they often find it harder to make critical decisions. We then see people taking work home with them, sometimes working late into the night. This in turn can disrupt sleep for the following night.”

Technology overload

Sleep is also frequently affected by technology and the ‘always available’ culture. Many experts believe the type of blue light emitted by laptop, tablet and smartphone screens limits the production of a hormone needed for sleep, called melatonin. For instance, the Nytol survey found that a third of young adults say they stay up late to browse the internet, while evidence elsewhere has revealed many young people go on social media and browse the internet when they’re having sleeping.

“People now commonly turn to devices as a means of distraction when they are struggling to drop off to sleep,” explains Dr Stanley. “However, this is likely to making the situation worse.

“There are three vital steps to help ensure you have a restful night’s sleep: an environment conducive to sleep, a relaxed body and a quiet mind. Going to bed and waking up at a regular time can also help to avoid sleep disturbances. When you are out of a normal sleep pattern, sleep aids can be helpful for some people to re-establish a normal rhythm by teaching your body when it’s time to sleep.”

To find out about over-the-counter sleep aids – such as gentle herbal remedies that provide temporary relief from sleep disturbances – speak to your local Careway pharmacist. Your pharmacist can also give you lots of tips on making your sleep environment as calm as possible, and things you can do to relax your mind and body before going to bed (find your nearest Careway pharmacy by using our Pharmacy Finder).

Also try reading our article about clearing your mind before going to bed. If work stress is keeping you up at night we also have some tips in 10 ways to stop stressing at work.