How much sleep did you get last night? Ten hours? Eight hours? Six hours? Even less than that?
According to new research by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH), the average Briton sleeps an hour per night less than they should, meaning they lose the equivalent of an entire night’s sleep every week.
The survey of 2,000 adults found that although people said they needed 7.7 hours of sleep a night, the average person only got 6.8 hours of shut-eye, with the difference having a knock-on effect on their health and costing the NHS millions of pounds each year in treating the resultant illnesses, from depression to obesity.
Half of those surveyed said they felt stressed because they didn't sleep enough, and a third blamed the lack of sleep on them choosing to eat unhealthy food.
“Good sleep can cure many of the public’s ills, and lack of it is linked to a string of unhealthy behaviours and some of our leading preventable diseases,” RSPH chief executive Shirley Cramer tells The Guardian.
“Despite this, sleep is an often overlooked and undervalued component in the public’s health. It is clear that the public regard sleep as just as important as maintaining a balanced diet or an active lifestyle for maintaining good health and wellbeing, and we need to do more to promote its importance.
“In order to give sleep the attention it deserves we believe that the government should develop a national sleep strategy which would encompass action that schools, employers, healthcare professionals and the public can take to help us sleep better at night.”
The report advises that 18-to-64-year-olds should be sleeping for seven to nine hours a night, with the recommended amount of sleep increasing for younger people, and falling to seven to eight hours once adults hit 65.
Colin Espie, a professor of sleep medicine at Oxford University and the co-author of the study, says: “The importance of sleep for individual and societal benefit has been almost completely neglected in both policy and practice.
“Insomnia, the most common expression of mental disease, is like a Cinderella disorder – seldom receiving proper attention, despite the fact that it is the most treatable precursor to depression.
“There is a great opportunity to put contemporary sleep research findings to work for the public good, and I’m sure many would agree on the importance of adding sleep to the nation’s health agenda.”
But how do we try to kick the habit of sleeping too little and make sure we're getting enough shut-eye? Experts advise having a set bedtime routine, and preparing ourselves adequately to make sure we're ready to fall asleep when we want to.
The news comes alongside that of another sleep study, which reveals that Britain is apparently a nation of morning people.
A poll of nearly 3,000 Brits conducted by Hillarys found that 72% of Brits considered themselves "liveliest and happiest" in the morning. Not only that, but those who said they were morning people were generally happier than those who don’t.
"There’s a bit of an ongoing joke about morning people being annoying and everyone being grumpy until they’ve had their cup of tea or coffee, but according to these results it seems that Britain is actually a nation of chirpy early-birds," says a Hillarys spokesperson.
"Looking at the results more seriously, there is an apparent correlation between people who consider themselves to be morning people and those who think they are generally happier. So it’s worth trying to figure out how you can make your mornings happier, from getting an earlier night through to being better prepared for the day ahead."
It all sounds good in theory, but the feeling of misery when our alarms go off makes us think this is an impossible dream...