Improving your sleep quality is as beneficial to health and happiness as winning the lottery, new research from the University of Warwick has found.
After analysing the sleep patterns of more than 30,500 people in British households over four years, scientists at the Department of Psychology found sleeping well gives a mood boost similar to a scooping jackpot of £120,000 or practicing mindfulness.
The study, published in the journal Sleep, showed that as people’s sleep improved over time so did their scores on the General Health Questionnaire, which is used by mental health professionals to monitor psychological well-being.
Lead author Dr Nicole Tang’s said the research showed that improving the quality and quantity of sleep among the population is an effective, simple and cheap method of raising the health and wellbeing of society as a whole.
But she cautioned against using sleeping pills to get rest, as they lowered well-being scores.
“The current findings suggest that a positive change in sleep is linked to better physical and mental well-being further down the line,” said Dr Tang.
“It is refreshing to see the healing potential of sleep outside of clinical trial settings, as this goes to show that the benefits of better sleep are accessible to everyone and not reserved for those with extremely bad sleep requiring intensive treatments.
“An important next step is to look at the differences between those who demonstrate a positive and negative change in sleep over time, and identify what lifestyle factors and day-to-day activities are conducive to promoting sleep.”
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Research released to mark World Sleep Day this week also showed that the insufficient sleep among the UK working population is costing the economy up to £40 billion a year, which is 1.86 per cent of the country’s GDP.
The UK loses just over 200,000 working days a year due to lack of sleep among the working population. These factors combined have a significant impact on the nation’s economy.
Health problems which are known to impact sleep include obesity, excessive alcohol and sugary drink consumption, smoking, lack of physical activity, mental health problems, long-term health conditions, stress at work, shift work/irregular working hours, financial concerns, and long commuting.
According to Google trends searches for the phrase, “How much sleep do I need?” have grown up to 1,429 per cent in the UK over the past 10 years, with high search peaks in January, April and September.
A survey by AXA PPP healthcare showed more than half of people (54 per cent) often or sometimes have trouble sleeping and 10 per cent always have problems with sleep or experience insomnia.
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In general, adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep but the exact amount varies from person to person. Different people need different amounts of sleep, and this depends on your age, your lifestyle, your genes and what you’re used to.
Mark Winwood, Director of Psychological Services at AXA PPP healthcare advises ditching the weekend lie-in and avoiding caffeine before bed to ensure a good night’s sleep.
“If you can’t fall asleep after 20 minutes, get up and do something else instead – try something relaxing like reading or listening to music,” he added.
“Only go back to bed when you feel tired. Similarly, if you find you’re dozing off on the sofa too early in the evening, get up and do a few jobs so that you save your snoozing for bedtime.”