Health: ‘Get to bed’ warning after alarming sleep statistics from Leeds research

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The demands of modern life are putting us at risk of obesity, diabetes and heart problems – because we don’t sleep enough.

That was the concerning message to come from the release of recent research from the University of Leeds, which has shown that a quarter of people who are aged 30 to 50 in the UK sleep as little as five hours a night.

The study by the Leeds institution in conjunction with Silentnight found that a sizeable portion of the wider population suffer from dangerously low levels of sleep.

Sleep debt, the gap between your sleep and the six to nine hours recommended a day, is thought to be worse than expected in the UK prompting strong calls for people to prioritise their shuteye.

Being in debt to sleep by a minimum of an hour per night equates to three and a half years in an average lifetime, and is believed to be even more serious for many more people across the country.

Dr Anna Weighall, from the University of Leeds’ School of Psychology, said: “Less than five hours each night is associated with serious negative health outcomes including cardiovascular problems, obesity and diabetes.

“The increasing demands of modern life, social media and connected technologies may affect the quality and quantity of our sleep and pose a serious and detrimental threat to health.”

She added that poor sleep has also been linked to other health issues including emotional problems like stress, anxiety and depression, as well as poor daytime functioning.

The study found that despite aiming to have eight to nine hours of sleep a night, 30 to 50 year olds were the group most likely to be in sleep debt, while over 50s had the best control over their body clocks.

Some of the stresses of modern life, like troubles at work and with family, were blamed for poor quality sleep by many of the 1,024 participants aged 18 to 80.

The alarming findings, which were released days before Sunday’s National Sleep In Day, have sparked a renewed call for people in the UK to take slumber seriously.

The campaign to raise awareness of the importance of sleep has been led by consumer group The Sleep Council in recent years, after its Great British Bedtime report in 2013 found a third of us get by on just five to six hours of sleep daily.

Lisa Artis, of The Sleep Council, said: “A good night’s sleep in a comfortable, supportive bed is critical to our overall wellbeing.”

It is well known that good sleep is essential to living a healthy life – ignoring the need to get enough snoozing time is even thought to reduce life expectancy.

It seems taking care of your health means taking the right amount of time out to rest.

HOW MUCH SLEEP DO WE ACTUALLY NEED?

According to the NHS most adults need six to nine hours of sleep each night but some people can feel perfectly rested with a lower amount.

Newborn babies can sleep for up to 16 hours a day.

School age children need an average of 10 hours.

Most people over the age of 70 tend to be light sleepers and need less than six hours.

High quality sleep is thought to boost your immunity, mental wellbeing, prevent diabetes, ward off heart disease, increase fertility and increase sex drive.

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