A recent survey of 8,000 UK adults has highlighted that the UK’s sleep epidemic is still a huge issue across the nation. On average Brits are only getting 5.91 hours of sleep a night, this is down from 6.11 in 2022 and 6.19 in 2021.

Nuffield Health’s 2023 ‘Healthier Nation Index‘ found of those surveyed, only 36 per cent said their sleep was ‘good’, with the average healthy adult needing between 7.5 – 8.5 hours per night, equating to five sleep cycles.

This means that the remaining 65 percent of those questioned feel that they are not getting good quality sleep. Good quality of sleep is about having the right balance of deep, slow-wave sleep and shallow, rapid eye movement (REM) sleep – where dreaming occurs.

This is especially concerning given 11 percent of respondents only get between 2-4 hours of sleep per night and 36 percent only sleep between 4-6 hours a day. Only 8 percent of us get more than the recommended 8 hours per night.

The study reveals those in the 45-54-year age bracket claim to have the worst sleep, with only 29 percent saying theirs is ‘good’ and with most averaging only 5.72 hours a night. The industries with the worst sleep and least likely to rate theirs as ‘good’ are Retail (32%) and those in HR (34%). Industries that rated their sleep as the best are I.T. (48%) and Finance (44%), but noticeably for both industries, the statistics are still under half.

The results suggest poor sleep quality reduces employee productivity. 37 percent said they were less productive after a poor night’s sleep. It also negatively impacts mental health, especially so in women. 55 percent said poor sleep had a negative impact on their emotional wellbeing, compared to just 41 percent of men.

When examining the different age brackets, it was 35–44-year-olds’ emotional wellbeing, which was most affected by poor sleep. 57 percent said not getting enough, was having a negative impact on their mental health.

The industries whose mental health was most affected by poor sleep include Architecture, Engineering & Building (56%), Education (55%), Retail (53%) and Healthcare (54%).

Chronic sleep disruptions might generate negative thinking and emotional sensitivity and research suggests poor sleep makes us twice as responsive to stress. It’s also thought treating insomnia may help alleviate the symptoms associated with anxiety and vice versa.

The study suggests there is also a link between sleep and financial wellbeing. As salary increases, so does the percentage of those who rate their sleep as ‘good’. However, interestingly, there is a drop in one of the salary brackets. 40 percent of those earning between £45-55K reported their sleep as good, but this rating decreased to 36 percent for those earing in the £55-65,000 salary bracket, before increasing again.

Luke Cousins, Physiology Regional Lead, at Nuffield Health commented:

Companies should collaboratively engage with their healthcare partners to bolster sleep education, and the relevant employee benefits needed to support those struggling. Taking a holistic view on health – including offering interventions that cover the full range of risks – is the only way to get back to maximum wellbeing and create a healthier nation.

Luke Cousins, Physiology Regional Lead, at Nuffield Health

Luke suggests the following four steps to enhance sleep quality among their workforces:

#1 Lead by example

Managers need to lead from the top down and ensure they are sending the right messages to their teams. Try not to stay late and openly address the myths surrounding sleep and productivity.

#2 Prioritise sleep in your wellbeing strategies.

Discuss with HR and other senior departments how to prioritise sleep management in your current health and wellbeing strategies, to complement other elements like nutrition and exercise.

#3 Signpost to support.

Where signs of emotional difficulty are identified, employers should signpost individuals towards the relevant emotional wellbeing support available to them.

#4 Encourage lifestyle changes outside of work too.

For example, emphasising the benefits of exercise in regulating sleep patterns, just not right before bed, as we remain in an ‘activated’ mode for a while after exercising, making it difficult to sleep.

Editor at Workplace Wellbeing Professional | Website | + posts

Joanne is the editor for Workplace Wellbeing Professional and has a keen interest in promoting the safety and wellbeing of the global workforce. After earning a bachelor's degree in English literature and media studies, she taught English in China and Vietnam for two years. Before joining Work Well Pro, Joanne worked as a marketing coordinator for luxury property, where her responsibilities included blog writing, photography, and video creation.