The study examined by the University of Leeds in conjunction with SilentNight, to be presented at the Newcastle British Sleep Society Conference, found that the lack of sleep Brits are getting each night is even more serious than previous studies have suggested. With 25% of 30-50 year olds admitting they are dissatisfied with their sleep and some are getting as little as five hours per night.

Discussing the research ahead of the conference, University of Leeds psychologist Dr Anna Weighall told how many of the British population are sleeping too little and can be in debt to their sleep by a minimum of one hour per night. This equates to three and a half years in an average lifetime, and for many Brits this debt is even more serious.

Interestingly, the data shows that whilst most people aim to achieve at least the amount of sleep recommended by the NHS, they believed they actually achieve significantly less, and when asked concrete questions about their previous night's sleep this gap increased even further.

Despite aiming to undertake around eight to nine hours sleep a night, 30 to 50 year-olds were the most likely group for being in debt to their sleep body clocks. Interestingly, those aged over 50 had the best control over their body clocks and claimed to be the most satisfied with their sleep, despite previous concerns that sleep can be disturbed as we age.

Dr Anna Weighall, from the University of Leeds, suggested that poor sleep patterns may be affected by the pressures of modern life, including the pressures of work. 42% of those questioned from the full sample reported that they found their jobs stressful and 30% indicated that their work has negatively affected their sleep during the previous week. With 21% reporting that they work on average over 40 hours a week, it is hardly surprising that sleep time is compromised.

The increased risk experienced by 30 - 50 years olds may be explained by the stresses and strains experienced during this phase of adulthood as pressures of work and family life are most marked in this age group. Dr Weighall suggests that people may have less sleep than they realise when they are working under pressure.

She said "What is interesting about previous studies is sleep has usually been monitored by asking people to think about their sleep patterns over a long period of time, and we know this type of question can be subject to memory biases. In our study we asked concrete questions about the previous night's sleep and compared it to reports of average sleep during the previous month."

"This data gives people the chance to have a more complete picture of their sleep, as when looking back over the month as an overview, people are likely generous about how much sleep they are getting, partly because it can be difficult to remember."

"It is also interesting to note the significant gap between how much sleep people think they need or intend to get and how much they actually get. This is of particular interest in terms of how the public health agenda might improve the nation's sleep because it suggests that we need to focus on giving people the tools necessary to change their behaviour, alongside information about the importance of sleep."

"Poor sleep has been implicated in a range of negative health outcomes and emotional problems such as stress, anxiety and depression, as well as poor daytime functioning which can even lead to accidents. In fact 30 per cent of respondents reported being dissatisfied with their sleep and 18 per cent said that poor sleep negatively affected their daily functioning."

Lack of sleep has serious health implications, physical and mental, and can result in poor day time performance, it can even affect our memories and our ability to learn and store new information, crucial in the workplace and also for those in education.

"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."

Brits are losing more than fifteen days a year in sleep a new study suggests

Brits are losing more than fifteen days a year in sleep a new study suggests

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