Mental Health Foundation report reveals impact of poor sleep on health and happiness

27th January 2011 by Peter Hames

Great British Sleep Survey Sleep news

A new study released by the Mental Health Foundation and based on figures from our Great British Sleep Survey, shows that up to 30% of Brits suffer from insomnia.

While sleep problems are often considered a “minor irritation”, this report highlights that sleep disorders put sufferers at significantly greater risk of developing health problems ranging from depression to heart disease.

And it’s not just health problems – the impact of insomnia on overall wellbeing and happiness is staggering, as shown by figures from our Great British Sleep Survey.

People with sleep insomnia are:

  • Four times as likely to have relationship problems
  • Three times as likely to experience low mood
  • Three times as likely to lack concentration during the day
  • Three times as likely to struggle to ‘get things done’ at work or elsewhere in their lives
  • Over twice as likely to suffer from energy deficiency

Sleepio co-founder, Professor Colin Espie, commented on these findings:

“The Great British Sleep Survey data show the extent to which sleep disorders can inhibit the very essence of who we are: our relationships, our mood, our ability to complete day-to-day tasks,” he said.

“We can no longer just ignore the impact of sleep problems in this country. They are affecting our health, our economy, and our everyday happiness”.

Dr Andrew McCulloch, Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation, agrees that sleep problems need be taken seriously:

“Whilst great emphasis is rightly placed on the importance of diet and exercise, sleep has for too long been neglected as a major influence on the physical and mental health of the nation,” he said.

“Up to a third of the population currently suffers from insomnia, and with stress and longer working hours on the rise in the current economic climate, it is crucial that we now treat the issue of sleep problems as the major public health concern it is”.

The Mental Health Foundation has some recommendations for dealing with the nation’s sleep problems, including:

  • Public health campaigns in schools and workplaces to highlight the importance of sleep
  • Provide GPs with information and training about the importance of sleep and evidence-based sleep therapies
  • The government’s new Public Health Outcomes Framework should include specific outcomes on reducing sleep problems
  • Further research into low cost CBT-based interventions for sleep problems, such as self-help books and online courses, should be carried out

Sleepio is proud to partner the Mental Health Foundation’s campaign, and welcomes mainstream recognition for the damage and distress that sleep problems cause.

A note on the survey data: although the sample size of the survey is large, there may be a bias towards those who suffer from sleep problems since they are likely to be more motivated than good sleepers to find out about the state of their sleep. As such absolute prevalence figures for each problem should be interpreted carefully. However, the comparative impact of sleep problems on different areas of sufferers’ lives will not be affected by prevalence, and the overall findings of the survey are echoed by those established in the broader body of research on the topic.

To download a copy of the report visit the campaign website here:

Or, to help add to our picture of the nation’s sleep and receive a free tailored sleep report, you can take the Great British Sleep survey yourself.


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