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TOXIC SLEEP: THE SILENT EPIDEMIC

By sleepcounciladmin on March 1, 2011

Nearly half of us are getting just six hours sleep or less a night. And an alarming four out of five people complain of disturbed or inadequate – or ‘toxic’ – sleep.

The solution could be shockingly simple. According to the Furniture Industry Research Association (FIRA), a bed may have deteriorated by as much as 70% from its ‘as new’ state after 10 years.

Yet, a new Sleep Council survey* for National Bed Month (March) shows people are simply not making the connection between toxic sleep and the state of their bed.

It found four fifths of those questioned regularly experience interrupted sleep or always wake up tired. And a whopping 47% achieve just six hours sleep or less a night.

67% said they wake up with back or neck ache: a classic symptom of a bed that no long offers the right level of support.

Yet incredibly, nearly nine out of 10 people said they were reasonably or very happy with the comfort of their bed.

“People simply do not seem to make the connection between lack of sleep and the state of their bed,” said Professor Chris Idzikowski of the Sleep Assessment and Advisory Service and Edinburgh Sleep Centre. “It is surprising to find that 67% of the sample were waking up with neck or back pain and not connecting their poor sleep with their, presumably old, bed. The sheer scale of sleep deprivation is worrying.

“The average person needs a good seven to eight hours sleep a night to function properly but what we are seeing here is nearly half the population suffering from quite significant sleep deprivation. An even higher proportion are reporting disturbed, interrupted or ‘toxic sleep’ – that is, sleep that leaves you still feeling tired in the morning.”

Said Jessica Alexander of The Sleep Council: “As well as reporting a lack of sleep and waking up with neck or back-ache, our survey also found more than a quarter of us would be embarrassed for other people to see the state of their mattress and one in six couples experience roll-together which is caused by a dip in the bed.

“What they are reporting are the classic symptoms of worn out or unsuitable beds.”

Such symptoms of wear and tear are confirmed in the just-published results of a scientific ‘autopsy’ undertaken by FIRA – the UK’s leading furniture testing and research centre – for The Sleep Council.

Laboratory tests on four different mattresses (one new and three between six-and-a-half and eight years old) found all had lost a degree of ‘height’ due to compression and in one, a spring frame which had penetrated the fabric could potentially have gone on to cause someone an injury.

On another, the outline of the springs was not only visible on the surface but the entire top ring of the springs could easily be felt through the cover.

So despite more than 50% of survey respondents saying they thought a bed should last between up to 12 years and over 20 years, the FIRA autopsy clearly demonstrated that beds as little as six years old could offer significantly less support and comfort than a new one.

Other signs of deterioration shown up by the tests included compressed and rusting springs, compacted fillings, split seams, frayed edging, musty smelling fillings, indentations, severe discolouration, baggy covers and loose or missing tufts.

Said Phil Reynolds, senior manager, technical services at FIRA who conducted the testing: “When we disassembled the used mattresses, all of them showed a loss of height and although it was not possible to see any dust mites or allergen as these are not visible to the naked eye, a covering of dust, skin cells and fibre on the back of one insulator was clearly visible.”

The mattresses were also tested for dust mites and, more importantly, their allergen. Just two micrograms per gram (mcg/g) of dust mite allergen can cause hypersensitivity in asthma sufferers, while ten mcg/g can pose a serious health risk.

According to the Medical Entomology Centre, Cambridge, around one in five aged mattresses can contain between two and 10mcg/g of the dust mite allergen and one in 20 has above 10mcg/g.

Said Jessica Alexander: “The research serves to confirm what we all know but few consumers seem to recognise: beds do deteriorate in time and that is bound to have an effect on the level of support and comfort they offer which will, in turn, affect the quality of sleep.

“Four out of five people in our survey said they were not getting a good night’s sleep and it is our belief that the problem for a large proportion of them is that they are sleeping on unsuitable or worn out beds.”

*Research for the Sleep Council ‘Toxic Sleep’ survey was conducted online by Pollab Ltd between January 26 – 27 2011. A total of 1,030 UK adults (aged 16+) were questioned, the sample being broadly representative of the UK population and demographically broken down by age, gender, region and marital status.

ADDITIONAL SURVEY FINDINGS

• Over three-quarters (75.79%) of women wake up with neck or back ache

• Almost a quarter (23.11%) of people living in the UK are sleeping on mattresses over 8 years old

• Nearly a quarter (23.79%) prefer the beds they sleep in when they go away to the ones they have at home

• The ‘made to last generation’ of people aged 55 – 64 (46.98%) and over 65 (43.24%) are more likely to expect a mattress to last up to 12 years, as opposed to the national average of 35.83% who believe a mattress should last the same amount of time

• The older you are, the more likely you are to be happy with your mattress, in all likelihood because you have spent more money on it. 31.54% of people aged between 55 – 64 and 40.54% of people over 65 said that they found their mattress very comfortable as opposed to the national average (21.94%). A survey conducted last year* showed that 12.1% of people over the age of 55 had spent more than £800 on their mattress, a figure nearly twice as high as the national average (6.3%).

• A hefty 46.88% of people aged 25 -34 would be embarrassed for people to see the state of their mattress without covers or sheets on, compared to the 93.24% of people over 65 who said that they wouldn’t be. A reflection on differing standards of housekeeping, perhaps?

• Co-habiting couples are the least likely to find their mattress very comfortable (12.58% as opposed to the national average of 21.94%).

*The Sleep Council ‘Bed Time’ survey was conducted online by Opinion Matters between September 24 2010 and October 11 2010 among a sample of 1040 working respondents

 

REGIONAL RESULTS

East

50.79% of people living in East Anglia say they their sleep is usually disturbed during the night (national average 47.86%) 43% of people are getting just 6 hours sleep or less a night 8% of couples experience roll-together which is cause by dip in the bed 75% of respondents said they wake up with back or neck ache 48% said they thought a bed should last between up to 12 years and over 20 years 18% of people would be embarrassed for people to see the state of their mattress

London

People living in London are the most likely to wake up with back or neck ache – 77.8%, as opposed to the national average of 67.28% 45% of people are getting just 6 hours sleep or less a night 24% of couples experience roll-together which is cause by dip in the bed 43% said they thought a bed should last between up to 12 years and over 20 years 31% of people would be embarrassed for people to see the state of their mattress

South East

People living in the South East are among the least likely to say they wake up each morning feeling refreshed (16.67%, as opposed to the national average of 19.51%) and among the most likely to say that they always wake up feeling tired (28.33%, as opposed to the national average of 26.70%) 46% of people are getting just 6 hours sleep or less a night 62% wake up with neck ache or back ache 35% said they thought a bed should last between up to 12 years and over 20 years 27% of people would be embarrassed for people to see the state of their mattress

East Midlands

9.64% of people in the East Midlands get no more than four hours sleep each night – almost twice as many as the national average of 4.85% 45% of people are getting just 6 hours sleep or less a night 18% of couples experience roll-together which is cause by dip in the bed 66% of respondents said they wake up with back or neck ache 47% said they thought a bed should last between up to 12 years and over 20 years 36% of people would be embarrassed for people to see the state of their mattress

West Midlands

People in the West Midlands are more likely to wake up tired (28.85%) than the national average (26.7%) 46% of people are getting just 6 hours sleep or less a night 13% of couples experience roll-together which is cause by dip in the bed 62% of respondents said they wake up with back or neck ache 31% said they thought a bed should last between up to 12 years and over 20 years 30% of people would be embarrassed for people to see the state of their mattress

North East

Over half of people living in the North East (51.31%) get six hours sleep or less each night (national average 46.98%) 20% of couples experience roll-together which is cause by dip in the bed 71% of respondents said they wake up with back or neck ache 32% said they thought a bed should last between up to 12 years and over 20 years 25% of people would be embarrassed for people to see the state of their mattress

North West

One in four people (24.99%) of people in the North West get just five hours sleep or less each night (national average one in five – 19.02%) 16% of couples experience roll-together which is cause by dip in the bed 77% of respondents said they wake up with back or neck ache 36% said they thought a bed should last between up to 12 years 24% of people would be embarrassed for people to see the state of their mattress

Northern Ireland

Couples sleeping on the same bed in Northern Ireland are the most likely (40%) to unintentionally roll towards one another in the night because of a dip in their mattress – the national average is 15.92% 70% of respondents said they wake up with back or neck ache 40% said they thought a bed should last between up to 12 years 30% of people would be embarrassed for people to see the state of their mattress

Scotland

One in seven (14.47%) of people living in Scotland get just five hours of sleep each night (national average 11.84%) 40% of people are getting just 6 hours sleep or less a night 16% of couples experience roll-together which is cause by dip in the bed 63% of respondents said they wake up with back or neck ache 40% said they thought a bed should last between up to 12 years and over 20 years 25% of people would be embarrassed for people to see the state of their mattress

South West

On average, people living in the South West are the nearly twice as likely to be woken by their partner in the night – 10.20% as opposed to the national average of 5.92% 46% of people are getting just 6 hours sleep or less a night 21% of couples experience roll-together which is cause by dip in the bed 61% of respondents said they wake up with back or neck ache 45% said they thought a bed should last between up to 12 years and over 20 years 29% of people would be embarrassed for people to see the state of their mattress

Wales

People in Wales are the most likely to have their sleep disturbed during the night – 55%, in comparison with the national average of 47.86% 51% of people are getting just 6 hours sleep or less a night 11% of couples experience roll-together which is cause by dip in the bed 62% of respondents said they wake up with back or neck ache 35% said they thought a bed should last between up to 12 years and over 20 years 15% of people would be embarrassed for people to see the state of their mattress

Yorkshire

More people living in Yorkshire wake up feeling refreshed than those living in any other part of the country – one in four of them (25.27%) as opposed to the national average of 19.51% 48% of people are getting just 6 hours sleep or less a night 15% of couples experience roll-together which is cause by dip in the bed 64% of respondents said they wake up with back or neck ache 37% said they thought a bed should last between up to 12 years and over 20 years 27% of people would be embarrassed for people to see the state of their mattress

 

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