Doubts cause adults to lose five billion hours sleep a year

1st November 2017

  • Average adults with concerns lie awake for seven nights every month
  • They lose an average of a full night’s sleep –eight hours – worrying each month
  • Home security, money worries, health concerns and work woes are among the causes of sleep loss amongst adults 
  • Six in 10 say losing this much sleep has a negative impact on their day-to-day wellbeing

Every year we’re losing almost five billion hours sleep worrying, new research from Swinton Group, the UK high street insurance broker, reveals.

Findings show the average adult who lays awake at night with concerns has seven nights of broken sleep a month and wastes a total of eight hours lying awake with doubts and worries – the equivalent amount the NHS advises an adult needs per night to function properly.

When applied across the adult population, this means Britons on average are deprived of 387 million hours’ worth of sleep each month which equates to almost five billion hours or 580 million nights’ sleep each year.

One in 20 respondents or three million people also say they lose sleep because of doubts and concerns every single night.

The survey of over 4,000 adults**, undertaken by YouGov for Swinton, reveals that six in 10 (60%) of those affected admitted that losing this amount of sleep has a negative impact on their day to day wellbeing.

Home security doubts, money worries, health concerns and work woes are among the causes of sleep loss amongst adults and, for some, this means regular sleepless nights.

Nearly three in 10 (28%) admitted they lose sleep every week over money worries, while a quarter (26%) lose sleep at least once a week over concerns about their health.

Meanwhile, almost a quarter (24%) admit that fretting about work worries causes them to lie awake at least once a week.

Doubts over home security keep one in five (20%) awake at least once a week, and this increases further to 27% for those with children living in the household.

The research also reveals the top doubts troubling Britons overall:

  1. Health – 47%
  2. Family health – 42%
  3. Personal finances – 37%
  4. Children – 33%
  5. Being lonely – 27%

Looking across the country, worriers in the capital suffer from sleepless nights the least, with Londoners losing less than seven nights a month on average and missing out on seven hours in total, while those in Wales suffer most, missing out on sleep for nine nights and for 12 hours in total each month.

Showing that with age comes peace of mind, the research found that respondents in their 30s lose sleep most often due to worrying (almost nine nights a month on average) whereas those in their 60s and 70s experience more restful sleep and worry for just five nights.

Indicating that money can bring reassurance, respondents with household incomes lower than £20,000 per annum lose sleep more than nine nights a month on average, while those earning £50,000 or more are only affected by worries around six nights a month.

Dr Guy Meadows, founder of the Sleep School said: “Sleep is the most powerful performance enhancer known to human kind, essential for strengthening our daytime mental, emotional and physical health and well-being.

“We know that the nation is currently not getting the recommended amount of sleep per night, and this latest research by Swinton Group confirms that nagging doubts play a significant role, with respondents being kept awake worrying for an average of seven nights a month.

“We know that when it comes to worrying, there are some factors that we can control and others that we can’t. Understanding the difference is the key to managing our concerns and allowing us to perform at our best during the day and achieve great quality sleep at night.”

Anne Kirk, Marketing Director at Swinton Group, said: “Everyday nagging doubts over issues like money, security and health can often keep us awake at night because they can feel out of our control.

“We want to offer people the confidence that their doubts are nothing to worry about. That’s why we’re working with experts like the Sleep School to help understand what individuals can do to improve sleep, boost their health and feel better placed to tackle the root causes of their doubts.

View our interactive Nagging Doubt map

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** All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 4374 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 6th - 10th October 2017. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).