Britons are increasingly turning to the bottle at bedtime – and less and less towards their partner, according to the results of its latest Great British Bedtime report (first conducted in 2013).
Leading advisory body, The Sleep Council, says alcohol in particular is increasingly being used as a ‘sleep remedy’. A quarter (25%) of those questioned for the 2017 report as opposed to 16% in 2013, said they used alcohol to help them nod off. And the number of Brits who don’t share a bed with their partner has increased from 8% to 12%. As well as alcohol, more and more people are turning to medication, music and meditation in their quest to get a good night’s sleep.
Not surprising, perhaps, given almost three-quarters of Brits sleep less than seven hours a night with more than one in ten (12%) sleeping for less than five hours.
Those turning to music to help them sleep grew from 17% in 2013 to 24% in 2017, and meditation has also grown in popularity – from 8% to 12%. But far fewer people (26% in 2017 versus 41% in 2013) say the last thing they do at night is read – traditionally regarded as a ‘sleep inducing’ activity.
Published in time for National Bed Month (March), results of The Sleep Council’s Great British Bedtime Report provide a ground-breaking insight into the nation’s changing sleep habits.
“It is the first time we have ever undertaken such wide-ranging benchmark consumer research,” says Lisa Artis of The Sleep Council, “and being able to compare this year’s data against that produced in 2013 really helps to set the nation’s changing sleep habits into context.”
In four short years, marked changes evidenced by the research show that we’re getting even less sleep. Almost three-quarters (74%) of Brits sleep less than seven hours per night while the number of people who said they get less than five hours a night has grown from 7% to 12%. For many people (61% of those questioned in 2017), between five to seven hours a night is the norm.
Drinking alcohol before bedtime has risen from 16% to 25% of those questioned with men (30%) more likely than women (20%) to have done so. 30% of people aged 45-54 also cited alcohol as something they use to help them nod off, making them the biggest users by age group.
The trend for sleeping apart continues to grow. More than one in 10 of those questioned (12% as opposed to 8% in 2013) said they did not share the same bed as their spouse or partner. And nearly a quarter of couples (24% v 22%) now sleep apart at least some of the time.
More people are buying bigger beds. The number of respondents who bought a king sized bed has jumped from 20% in 2013 to 32% this year. 2017 figures show that sales of standard doubles still make up the bulk of sales (to 47% of those questioned) with most people (41%) paying between £200 and £599 for their current bed.
Surprisingly, the number of people using technology in the bedroom would appear to have declined since 2013, although the number of people checking their social media last thing at night showed a small rise from 8-9%. Checking emails has dropped from 14% to 6%; watching television just before going to sleep is down from 38% to 30%; and using laptops/tablets is down from 12% to 8%.
Of those questioned in 2017, a surprisingly modest 38% said they kept and used a smartphone in the bedroom.
Says Lisa Artis: “The latest report is worrying on a number of fronts –particularly the facts which show we’re getting even less sleep now, the rise in alcohol consumption as a way of getting to sleep and the increase in couples who sleep apart.
“On a more positive note, we’re pleasantly surprised to find less people are using technology in the bedroom before going to sleep – which is great news. TVs, laptops and games consoles all have a significant impact on our sleeping habits and using a gadget just before bed makes it harder to switch off mentally and wind down.”
Other interesting pointers to come from the 2017 report include:
More than a third (35%) of Brits have suffered from sleeping problems for more than five years; a fifth (20%) for more than 10;
The top three things that disturb our sleep are: worry or stress (45%), partner disturbance (25%) and noise (20%). Furthermore, more than one in 10 (13%) blame an uncomfortable bed;
Unsurprisingly, more than half of respondents (55%) feel ready to face the day after a good night’s sleep;
When asked what aspect of their life was most affected by lack of sleep, 53% said energy levels, 52% mood, 36% health, 23% work performance and 21% personal relationships;
It seems the more you earn, the more you sleep – 71% of those who earn a household income between £80,000 and £100,000 sleep on average more than six hours per night. 50% of those who earn under £10,000 sleep less than six.
Continues Lisa: “We spend a third of our lives sleeping which is vital to our health and wellbeing – but almost half of Britons say stress is keeping them awake at night. Bedtime should be a place where you can switch off, forget about the busyness of the day and relax. We can all suffer from worry and anxieties from time to time, but if it’s creating unhealthy sleeping habits, people should take action and get the peaceful night’s sleep they deserve.”
The gender gap
More than half of women (51%) are kept up at night due to worry and stress compared to 39% of men. Furthermore, 29% of women blame partner disturbance compared to 19% of men.
Men (53%) are more likely than women (42%) to go to sleep after 11pm.
The Age gap
More than a third (34%) of 25-34 year-olds listen to music to help them sleep compared to just 15% of those aged over 55.
Just under a quarter (23%) of 25-34 year-olds have used a sleep tracker or sleeping app compared to just 5% of over-55s.
People aged 25-34 are most likely to check their social media (17%) before settling down for the night (average 9%) while those aged 55-plus are most likely to read – 38% compared to the average 26%.
The wage gap
71% of those who earn a household income of £80,001-£100,000 sleep for more than six hours on an average night, compared to 50% of those who earn under £10,000.
29% of Brits who earn less than £10,000 don’t go to sleep until after midnight.
Research shows the more money people earn, the more they feel energised in the morning; almost half (49%) of those who earn £40,001-£80,000 feel refreshed in the morning compared to just 35% who earn less than £10,000.
30% of Londoners believe that changing their bedtime would improve their sleep compared to just 19% of people from the South east whilst 44% of people who live in Yorkshire and the Humber don’t have any problems sleeping, compared to 22% living in the East Midlands who say they’ve suffered from lack of sleep for 10 years or more.
The loved-up North west share their beds with their partner every night they are at home together (79%), whilst people living in East Anglia most likely to sleep apart (16%). Yet Londoners appear to get the best quality of sleep, with 29% saying they sleep very well most nights, and 30% of people in the North West sleep quite poorly each night.
Sleepers in Northern Ireland use the most technology to help them sleep, as 53% of adults use a sleep tracker or sleeping apps most nights, furthermore, people in Northern Ireland are the happiest when they wake up in the morning after having a good night’s sleep (49%). 90% of people in the South west have never used sleeping apps or trackers to help them sleep and almost a quarter of people living in East Anglia don’t have or use any form of technology in their bedroom (24%).
People living in the East Midlands suffer from stress and worry the most (49%), which in turn, affects their sleep whereas men and women living in Northern Ireland drink the most alcohol to help them sleep at night (29%), whilst people in the South east drink the least before bed (22%).
Almost a quarter of people in the North east have quite a poor night’s sleep each night (24%), with 30% of them getting just five or six hours of sleep a night and people in Scotland read the most before going to sleep, compared to other regions in the UK. 35% of Scots enjoy a book before bed!
89% of people in Wales have never used a sleeping app or tracker in bed – compared to 29% of Londoners who do use them, 45% of people using them ‘most nights’
More than half of people in Wales (55%) say their energy levels have been affected by lack of sleep, with 22% of people sleeping quite poorly at night.
Only 17% of people from the West Midlands get the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep a night, and almost a quarter (24%) use music to help them drift off to sleep
The Sleep Council Great British Bedtime Report was conducted by Atomik Research, which questioned a sample of 5002 people via an online survey. Participants in the 2017 survey, while similarly represented, were not the same as those questioned in 2013. The exact cross tabulation of questions was asked, such as age, gender, marital status, geographical area, income etc. The survey was conducted between 27th December 2016 and 4th January 2017.