The 2024 Theme: Sleep Equity for Global Health

Have you been struggling to nod off recently, or perhaps you keep waking up in the night? If so, you’re not alone.

36% of the adults in the UK struggle to fall asleep at least once a week

Nearly half of UK adults have trouble falling asleep at least once a month

Almost 1 in 5 adults have trouble falling asleep every single night

Women have more trouble falling asleep than men

People aged 45-54 struggle the most when it comes to falling asleep; two thirds of this age group report difficulty falling asleep at least once a month.

55% of young people (age 18-24) say they find it hard to get to sleep at least once a month.

But is sleep actually all that it’s cracked up to be? And how much do we really need to be healthy?

Today we take a look at the science behind sleep. We’ll bust some myths, share some expert advice and discuss some easy ways to get your 40 winks.

Let’s start with the basics; sleep is a vital function. It allows your body and mind to recharge, leaving you refreshed and alert when you wake up. If you’re struggling to wake in the morning and have to reach for a coffee daily, then the likelihood is that you may need more, or indeed a better, quality sleep.

Without sleep your brain cannot function properly. So much so in fact, that a lack of sleep has been shown to reduce performance and cognitive functioning, increase blood pressure and the production of stress hormones, cause weight gain and increase the risk of many diseases too. In addition to this, a lack of sleep has also been found to increase the risk of accidents and road related deaths and increase mental health conditions too.

The first step in getting a better night’s sleep is to start making sleep a priority. Sleep is not a just commodity that we can merely trade for something more exciting. Neither is it a luxury or something that “would be nice to have more of”. Rather, it is an essential and fundamental function that all humans need.

Three sleep myths we want to BUST right now!

Myth: It’s possible to ‘catch-up’ on sleep.
Reality: We tell ourselves that we can catch-up with sleep at the weekend, and then we rely on caffeine to get us through the day. But the reality is that we can’t catch-up on lost sleep, and what’s worse, we actually become acclimatised to the impaired performance, lowered alertness and reduced energy levels.

Myth: We need exactly eight hours.
Reality: There is no ‘magic number’ here. Everyone’s requirements are different. The key is to gauge what you need by how you feel the next day. That being said, regularly getting less than seven hours a night is not sufficient for anyone, we should be aiming for between 7-9 hours. Research has found that those who frequently get fewer than seven hours a night are at significantly increased risk of stroke and heart disease.

Myth: Alcohol makes you sleep better.
Reality: While drinking alcohol may make you feel tired initially and help you ‘pass out’, in reality it only leads to a more fragmented sleep. If you do decide to have a drink, it’s important to leave approximately two hours before going to bed so that any alcohol is already wearing off before your head hits the pillow.

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