Is sleep the best medicine?

According to research, people in the UK are waking up feeling tired most of the time, and it’s having a drastic effect on the nation’s health.

On average, people wake up still feeling tired four days every week on average, with 84% reporting this has led them to be more susceptible to illnesses, the most common being migraines, flu and depression.

This chronic lack of sleep is leading many to seek help, with 1-in-6 people seeing their GP in the last 12-months because of illnesses directly related to a lack of sleep, equating to 9.5 million appointments.

However, it appears sleep could indeed be ‘the best medicine’. Respondents of the study reported that a good night’s sleep has improved the symptoms of certain physical and mental illnesses. Yet despite this, just 8% of people have been ‘prescribed’ getting more rest by their doctor as a solution to their ailment, suggesting sleep is not always being taken seriously as a treatment for patients.

The cause of the problem

So, what is causing this epidemic of sleeplessness? It seems that many people are following bad habits when it comes to sleep, which is having an impact on the quality of our slumber. In reality, our activities throughout the day have a large effect on the quality of our slumber at night, from our exercise levels, to the food we eat and even our exposure to technology.

In fact, research shows that 70% of people use technology in bed every night, while many also report to eating sugary or fatty foods and drinking alcohol or caffeine in the run up to bedtime, all of which can have a negative impact on sleep.

5 ways to improve your sleep

  1. Limit technology – the blue light emitted from our TV, phone and tablet screens impacts your levels of melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone, meaning you’re less likely to feel sleepy. Make sure to create a tech-free zone 30 minutes before bed to minimise the effects of blue light.
  2. Stick to a routine – a regular sleep routine can help you get better quality sleep. Maintaining your bedtime and wake up time, even on weekends, helps avoid ‘social jet lag’.
  3. Avoid alcohol before bed – avoid alcohol for three hours before bed, as alcohol can limit the amount of REM sleep you get during the night, often considered the most restorative stage of sleep. While you may fall asleep faster after a drink, you’re more likely to feel unrested in the morning due to poorer quality sleep.
  4. Create the perfect environment - your choice of bedding, mattress and immediate environment impacts on sleep quality. Studies show messy bedrooms can cause poor sleep due to increased stress levels. Be sure to invest in a supportive mattress and pillows, as well as dark curtains to help improve sleep quality.
  5. Avoid caffeine after 3pm – caffeine stays in your system for much longer than many people believe. It’s important to stay away from caffeinated drinks after 3pm to minimise its impact on your slumber.

For more tips from Sealy UK on how to get a healthy night’s sleep and to tackle poor sleep habits go to

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Last revised: 12 February 2020
Next review: 12 February 2021