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Why Can't Britain Sleep? Tonight

Tonight reporter Fiona Foster investigates the importance of sleep at 7.30pm on ITV Photo: ITV / Tonight

A new survey by Aviva shows that Brits are the worst sleepers in the world. So is it time we all took our sleep more seriously?

We can’t live without it yet millions of us struggle to get enough sleep and the hours we spend in bed affects our health, our work and our family.

Just in the last five years we’ve had research revealing the impact of sleep on risk of cognitive decline, for example, dementia, high blood pressure, the common cold. You’re actually four times more likely to get a cold if you get fewer than seven hours sleep.”

– Dr Sophie Bostock

Nick Littlehales is an elite sports sleep coach who has worked with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo. He believes his methods apply to everyone so we introduce him to long time insomniac, Linda White, to see if he can get her sleeping through the night.

As a sleep coach I look at their current approach, identify the things that they are doing well and the things they could improve, they are normally very uneducated about the actual process of sleep so you look at their current approach and try to find something that works for them”

– Nick Littlehales
Nick Littlehales Credit: ITV / Tonight

Nick advises Linda from Doncaster to go to bed later, to get up at the same time everyday, take naps, wind down before bed and to invest in a thin new pillow and a mattress topper. After two weeks of the new sleep routine, Linda is starting to feel better.

Linda White with husband, Nick Credit: ITV / Tonight

Sleep is big business in the UK. Sales of over-the-counter sleep aids has reached £58 million in 2016 and poor sleepers have tried it all; from sleeping with lavender to paying for hypnotherapy people are willing to try anything to find a quick fix.

But some sleep experts believe one way to tackle Britain’s current sleep crisis is through cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). One such programme, Sleepio, combines technology and CBT to treat people in the comfort of their own home. In controlled scientific trials this programme was found to help three quarters of the chronic insomnia sufferers who tried it. We meet Michael Richardson, who found that sticking to the programme wasn’t easy but the end results were worth the effort.

It feels great, it feels brilliant being able to sleep properly and just, just being able to live like a normal person, rather than having this massive excess baggage, it feels amazing.”

– Michael Richardson

If you want to find out more about your sleep profile and help researchers in the largest ever survey of the nation's sleep then you can take part in the Great British Sleep Survey.

To find out more go to The Great British Sleep Survey.

Tips for a good night's sleep:

  • Having fixed times for going to bed and waking up
  • Creating a relaxing bedtime routine
  • Switching off technology at least an hour before bed
  • No caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime
  • Making sure that your mattress and pillows are comfortable
  • Avoid clock watching when you can’t sleep
  • Don't lie in bed feeling anxious. Instead, get up, do something else for twenty minutes, then try again.

Why Can’t Britain Sleep? is on ITV at 7.30pm and on The ITV Hub shortly afterwards.

Let us know your thoughts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using #ITVTonight.

Useful Links:

Half the medical products bought online are fake or unlicensed. The MHRA is currently running a FakeMeds campaign which aims to:

  • Educate about the safest way to buy medicines and medical devices
  • Encourage not to buy from unsafe and unregistered online sources
  • Raise awareness of the risks of buying fake medicines and medical devices

Sleepio is currently not available through your GP but Big Health are working with NHS England and hope to make it available on prescription across the country in the future. However, it can be available on the NHS in some areas of the north west of England only for people who self-refer or are referred by their GP for psychological therapy.

Sleepio is still running research trials up to 1st December 2016. To find out more visit https://www.sleepio.com/research or Big Health.

If you’re having sleep problems and are interested in participating in research, the University of Oxford would love for you to get involved in their sleep studies by clicking here.