British Sleeping Habits & How They Have Changed

Sleep plays a major role in maintaining physical, mental, and emotional health, making it an important aspect of a healthy lifestyle. A good night’s sleep allows the body and mind to recharge, preventing various health issues and promoting overall wellness.

In fact, getting enough sleep is just as important as eating a balanced diet when it comes to sustaining a healthy lifestyle. This article aims to highlight the importance of sleep in maintaining a good health and overall well-being, as well as shed some light on different factors that affect the sleeping habits of the people in the UK.

Historical Sleeping Habits in the UK

Recent studies have indicated a decline in sleep duration over the past few decades and sleep deprivation in the UK is becoming a norm. It is believed that ancient people used to sleep in two shifts, and an uninterrupted eight-hour sleep is a relatively modern idea.

Before the industrial revolution in the late 17th century, British people used to go to bed as soon as it got dark. However, they would only sleep for five hours and wake up in the middle of the night. They would mostly carry out their household chores, or get intimate with their partners before going back to bed for another round of sleep.

During the Industrial revolution, there was a massive shift in sleeping habits. Due to the widespread use of electricity, people could get a lot of work done even after dawn and as a result, the second cycle of sleep gradually disappeared. Working after sunset, and sleeping the whole night, till morning was normalized. Another notable reason was the rise of factories and mass production, which led to the introduction of the 9-5 work shift.

In the 20th century, people generally had regular sleep patterns, with many going to bed and waking up at the same time each day. However, the widespread use of television and other electronic devices disrupted these patterns, leading to people staying up for long hours and getting less sleep.

Current Sleeping Habits in the UK

An average person should aim to get between 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Contrary to popular belief, there is no scientific evidence to support the idea that 8 hours of sleep is the perfect amount for everyone.

The amount of sleep required to maintain a healthy lifestyle varies from person to person. However, studies suggest that only 15% Brits are getting a quality sleep, with around half of adults sleeping for around 6 hours in the UK. This indicates that a large number of people are sleep deprived in the country. Getting less than seven hours of sleep per night is linked to negative health outcomes, including a higher risk of heart problems, diabetes, and dementia.

How Sleep Habits Affect Health and Wellbeing?

Sleep habits can have a major influence on our overall health and happiness. Sleep deprivation or poor sleep quality can result in a variety of physical and mental health issues. Lack of sleep can cause an array of health problems. Furthermore, lack of sleep has an impact on your appearance as well as productivity, leading to many real-world issues as a side effect.

Physical Health

Inadequate sleep can directly affect your physical health. It can lead to many chronic health conditions which include diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Apart from that, poor sleep can also negatively affect your immune system; weakening it and making it more difficult for the body to fight against infections and diseases. Poor sleep habits debilitate the general functionality of your body. Your energy level may go down due to lack of sleep and make it difficult to carry out even the most basic of day-to-day activities.

Mental Health

Lack of sleep or sleep disorders negatively affect the brain function, which leads to decreased memory and learning capabilities. It makes it harder to pay attention and concentrate properly, which can pose additional risks such as accidents and injuries while driving. Poor sleep habits can also lead to  mood swings and emotional instability. They can make you infuriated, and become a major reason for depression, anxiety, and mood disorders.

Cognitive Functioning

Poor quality sleep can impair your cognitive capacities. It can affect your alertness, which makes it difficult to carry out complex cognitive processes. Insufficient sleep can lead to poor memory, decreasing the capability of a person to acquire information and effectively recall it when needed.

The decision-making skills of a person can also be affected by poor sleep habits. During sleep, the body heals, the brain processes information from the previous day and toxins are flushed from brain cells. That’s why you are more likely to make bad decisions if you are not getting the recommended amount of sleep on a routine basis.

Factors Influencing Sleep Habits in the UK

Sleep habits are influenced by various factors, such as work responsibilities, gender, health conditions, and socioeconomic status. For example, new mothers often experience disrupted sleep patterns due to the demands of caring for a newborn.


As people age, the amount and quality of sleep they get tend to decrease. Older people also tend to experience less deep sleep compared to younger people. They face frequent sleep disruptions during the night. Many sleep disorders, including insomnia and sleep apnea, are also more prevalent in older age groups due to age-related changes in the body’s sleep cycle.


Studies have found that there is a gender gap in the amount and quality of sleep that men and women get. According to a recent poll of 2,000 Brits, approximately 50% of women in the UK reported feeling constantly sleep-deprived and on average had three hours less sleep than men. 3        

Socioeconomic Status

Socioeconomic status can have an impact on sleep habits in the UK. People with a low socioeconomic status tend to experience more sleep-related problems. Factors such as job insecurity, financial problems, and improper living conditions are common causes of poor sleep. Whereas, people with high income seem to have a better night’s sleep and peace of mind in general, but they too have their own set of sleep related issues.

Health Conditions

People with chronic illnesses or mental health problems are more likely to experience sleep disturbances. Stress associated with health conditions can make it difficult to fall asleep and maintain a quality sleep. Both physical and mental health are closely linked to sleep quality, and those with mental health issues may end up oversleeping or undersleeping.

Improving Sleep Habits

Getting adequate sleep is an essential factor in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Good sleep enhances the body’s ability to recover and rejuvenate itself, which results in improved mental and physical health. Despite having a busy schedule, one should always prioritize sleep and ensure to get at least the recommended amount of sleep every night (8 hours).

Buying a comfortable mattress is one of the easiest and simplest things you can to to get a good night’s sleep. There are different types of mattresses available in the market and choosing the right one can mean the difference between a good night’s sleep and sleep deprivation. Here are different types of mattress to choose from:

different types of mattresses

Creating a Sleep-Conductive Environment

  • Environment: In order to get good sleep after a busy day, it is crucial to have a sleep conducive environment. A peaceful and comfortable environment helps you get quality sleep.
  • Sleep-promoting conditions: Having comfortable bedding and a pillow, the right temperature and humidity level contributes to good sleep.
  • Avoiding sleep-affecting elements: You should avoid using any electronic device before going to bed such as a cell phone or laptop and watching television.

Establishing a Regular Sleep Schedule

Keeping a regular sleeping schedule may help you sleep faster and wake up more easily.

Sticking to a consistent sleep routine helps you get the right amount of sleep according to your needs. Sleeping early and waking up early every day even on holidays and weekends can help you stay active and make you feel refreshed throughout the day.

Practicing Relaxation Techniques

To make yourself relaxed after a long, hectic day, you can use some relaxation techniques which may result in a good amount of sleep. You can have a warm shower before bed, or do some yoga and stretches or breathing exercises to make it easier to fall asleep. Reading a book or engaging in any relaxing hobby may also help improve your sleep.


Sleep is a critical factor in maintaining good health, and it should not be compromised, regardless of workloads or other obligations. Getting enough quality sleep is essential for our physical and mental health. While the ideal amount of sleep varies from person to person, it’s generally recommended that adults aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night.

Lack of sleep or poor quality sleep not only affects productivity, but also increases the risk of developing chronic diseases in the long term. The best way to improve sleep quality is to avoid using smartphones and tablets before bedtime. A balanced diet combined with regular physical activity has a positive impact on sleep quality as well.