One in 10 take medication for a good night's sleep

A sleeping couple The more job satisfaction you have, the better you sleep, say researchers

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One in 10 people in the UK take medication to help them sleep, research has suggested.

Analysis of the sleeping habits of 14,000 households by the University of Surrey also showed that one in eight people get less than six hours' sleep a night.

Experts warn that a good night's sleep is essential to a healthy lifestyle.

The research was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.

The data comes from a large study of 40,000 UK families over many years, called Understanding Society, in which sleep data is collected each year.

They looked at the differences in sleeping habits between men and women.

Researchers found that women are more likely to have problems getting to sleep within half an hour than men - 24% compared to 18%.

And 25% of women over 85 said they took medication to help them get to sleep on three or more nights a week, compared to 15% of men.

But more men than women said that snoring or coughing disturbs their sleep - 30% compared to 20%.

Start Quote

If someone asks us how we slept, we just say 'fine' - even if it wasn't.”

End Quote Professor Sara Arber University of Surrey

The study also examined the link between work and sleep patterns, finding that job satisfaction affects the quality of sleep.

Thirty-three per cent of the most dissatisfied employees reported that they slept poorly, compared to just 18% of the most satisfied employees.

Those who were unemployed were over 40% more likely to have difficulty staying asleep than those in employment.

Health risk

Researchers also found that men and women working longer hours are more likely to sleep less and have a poorer night's sleep, which suggests that stress and time constraints have a part to play in quality of sleep.

This could also explain why one in ten people resort to using a sleep remedy or a prescribed sleep medication to help them fall asleep at night.

Sara Arber, professor of sociology at the University of Surrey, who analysed the findings of the survey, said it was well established that "lack of sleep is not good for you".

Previous research has shown that sleep deprivation increases the risk of diabetes, heart disease and obesity, among other conditions.

"This survey shows that many people have problems with sleep and are willing to try all kinds of strategies to help them get to sleep," Professor Arber said.

But British people are not very good at talking about their sleep troubles.

"It's not an everyday topic of conversation. If someone asks us how we slept, we just say 'fine' - even if it wasn't."

She added: "Health promotion campaigns should be open to the possibility that the increased incidence of sleep problems among the disadvantaged in society may be one factor leading to their poorer health."

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