Almost half of Britons say that stress or worry keeps them awake at night.

According to a major report published by The Sleep Council, the economic downturn has meant that many people are too anxious to sleep: almost half of those questioned said that stress or worry keeps them awake at night (47%) rising to 54% of women (compared to 40% of men) and 57% of singles.

The findings come from The Sleep Council’s biggest ever research project. Some 5000 people were surveyed to provide an overview of British sleeping habits. The results are published in an in-depth report, The Great British Bedtime Report.

It found that as many as 7.9 million have used alcohol to help them get to sleep at night while 6.8 million self-medicate with over-the-counter tonics. Divorced people are much more likely to seek help from their GP (16% compared to the average of 10%) with sleep problems.

Clear leaders in the ‘What Keeps You Awake At Night’ category, worry and stress were well ahead of other night time niggles – partner disturbance was the second greatest irritation affecting 25% of those polled. An uncomfortable bed came next, bothering 13% of people.

Said Jessica Alexander of The Sleep Council: “A good night’s sleep can be affected by everything from stress at work or money worries to more practical considerations such as a bedroom that is too hot or cold, or an uncomfortable bed.

“We know from past research that, as a nation, stress levels rise during periods of economic uncertainty and this can have considerable impact on our sleeping habits – as it clearly is doing now.”

38% of respondents believe that changing their bed time and wake up time would improve their sleep while 17% have taken medication and 14% have tried over the counter remedies in an attempt to relieve the problem. Drinking alcohol (16%) is another worryingly common method people use to help them drop off. As a percentage of the adult population, that equates to 7.9 million turning to alcohol to help them sleep while 6.8 million self-medicate with over-the-counter tonics.

The Sleep Council’s Great British Bedtime report is intended to provide a full audit into the nation’s sleeping habits and will be repeated on a regular basis in order to monitor any changes.

One significant change – benchmarked against a Sleep Council survey in 2010 – shows a worrying increase in the number of people sleeping just five to six hours with 7% more people now getting by on this a night.

Although current NHS guidelines indicate that we don’t necessarily need eight hours sleep, experts believe that most adults require somewhere between six and nine hours in order to feel refreshed and to function well both mentally and physically.

Note to Editors: The research for The Sleep Council was carried out online by Opinion Matters between 02/01/2013 and 23/01/2013 amongst a panel resulting in 5007 respondents (UK adults). All research conducted adheres to the MRS Codes of Conduct (2010) in the UK and ICC/ESOMAR World Research Guidelines. Opinion Matters is registered with the Information Commissioner’s Office and is fully compliant with the Data Protection Act (1998).

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