Government sleep guidance advises at least 7 hours’ sleep a night – while it allows plane noise that prevents this
Official guidance on how many hours people should sleep each night is set to be introduced by government, to improve public health. They say people should regularly get 7 – 9 hours sleep per night, most nights. If people often sleep for less than 7 hours, there are numerous health impacts (eg, diabetes, dementia risk, depression, obesity, cardiovascular disease, other mental illness). Making up sleep on some nights, after not getting enough on others, is not as good as enough sleep most of the time. Ensuring people get enough sleep is important and could save the NHS money, by being “the tide that rises all other health boats.” Lack of sleep can have a “negative impact” on recovery from illness and surgery. The need for over 7 hours of sleep per night for adults (younger people need even more sleep) is particularly relevant in the context of proposals to expand airports. The UK government policies and targets on noise at night are inadequate and out of date, and new targets must be incorporated into national policies. The cost and long-term consequences of damage to the health of millions due to government inaction will be considerable. The Department of Health should take a stronger lead on this.
Public will be advised how much sleep to get
Ministers plan alcohol-style guidelines for rest
Francis Elliott, Political Editor | Tom Whipple, Science Editor
July 13 2019,
Three quarters of adults in the UK regularly sleep less than seven hours per night
Official guidance on how many hours people should sleep each night is set to be introduced by ministers.
The suggested minimum amount will vary according to age group and will come with advice on “sleep hygiene”, according to government-backed proposals to improve public health. The move will resemble recommendations on weekly alcohol consumption.
However, the guidelines are expected to state that regularly getting less than seven hours’ sleep a night could damage most people’s health.
Experts said that the plans could help people to live longer and bring significant savings for the health service. “Sleep is the tide that rises all other health boats,” one neuroscientist said. “The potential cost savings to the NHS could be many millions.”
Matt Hancock, the health secretary, is due to publish a public health green paper as part of efforts to improve disease prevention. Much of the document deals with action to curb smoking and obesity but it also calls for official action to help people to get more sleep. “There’s growing evidence on the health impacts of lack of sleep,” a leaked draft seen by The Times says.
“Failure to sleep between seven and nine hours a night is associated with physical and mental health problems, including an increased risk of obesity, strokes, heart attacks, depression and anxiety. With up to three quarters of adults in the UK regularly sleeping less than seven hours per night, there is much more left to achieve.
“As a first step the government will review the evidence on sleep and health. This is with a view to informing the case for clear national guidance on the daily recommended hours of sleep for individuals in different age brackets and to raise awareness of the key ‘sleep hygiene’ factors that can support healthy sleeping.”
Lack of sleep can also have a “negative impact” on recovery from illness and surgery, the paper says, drawing on research in the Journal of Intensive Care Medicine showing that more than a third of hospital patients complain about being bothered by noise from other patients.
Ministers will order the NHS to review its practices, including introducing “protected sleep time” when staff do not disturb patients without good clinical reason.
Studies have shown that with every hour of sleep less than seven hours per night, an average person’s chance of contracting type 2 diabetes rises over time by 10 per cent. Women working during the night have a 30 per cent higher chance of getting breast cancer, and men have a 25 per cent higher chance of contracting heart disease. Mr Hancock is understood to be supportive of the proposals but will emphasise that the guidance is not meant to be prescriptive to the population at large.
The health secretary, who has declared his support for Boris Johnson, was caught out this month when the Tory leadership candidate said that he was opposed to extending a levy on sugary drinks to milk shakes, another of the recommendations in the green paper. Mr Hancock will be wary of laying himself open to another charge of encouraging state “nannying” from the man he wants to replace Theresa May.
The politician who pushed hardest for sleep to be included with smoking, alcohol and obesity in the range of policies is Steve Brine, a former public health minister who has quit the government to oppose a no-deal Brexit. He became interested after seeing a passenger reading Why We Sleep, by the neuroscientist Matthew Walker, on a train. The British academic and author, based at the University of California, Berkeley, says Shakespeare got it right when he had Macbeth describe sleep as the “chief nourisher in life’s feast”.
Mr Brine said: “We’re all familiar with the notion of being tired and grouchy as a result but there’s very little understanding of how a lack of sleep, and as importantly poor quality sleep, can impact our health in much more serious ways.
“Working with an increasing body of evidence in this area, I think it’s time we established sleep as a real public health issue. Certainly we need to if we’re serious about prevention of ill health.”
Professor Walker called the green paper a “landmark first step”. He said yesterday: “Sleep is the tide that rises all other health boats . . . Every major disease that is killing us in the United Kingdom has significant, and many of them causal, links to a lack of sleep.”
Russell Foster, professor of sleep and circadian neuroscience at Oxford University, agreed that the guidance was “fantastic”. He said that the evidence was now overwhelming that good sleep could protect against conditions including dementia, diabetes and depression. “In five years of training clinicians get one or two lectures on sleep,” he said. “Yet it is estimated that 30 per cent of the problems a GP encounters are linked to sleep.”
He added that it was important to be careful with the recommendations and that simply stating, for instance, that adults should get seven to eight hours may be a mistake. “The difficulty is there’s a lot of individual variation,” he said. “People have to understand their own sleep needs.”
A recent survey found that 20 million Britons thought that they needed to get more sleep than they did.
What health problems has sleep been linked to?
A lot. Results vary by study, but according to recent research, women who work night shifts have nearly a third higher risk of breast cancer, while men who work shifts have a quarter higher risk of heart disease. Compared with those getting 7 hours a night, for each hour less you sleep the chances of contracting type 2 diabetes rise by 10 per cent. Other conditions associated with poor sleep include dementia, and obesity.
Reduced sleep also affects concentration, memory, cognitive skills and productivity. It can lead to depression, anxiety, loss of empathy and risk-taking.
Are we getting enough sleep?
No. A recent survey found that 20 million Britons, almost half the adult population, think that they need more.
How strong is evidence for a link between sleep and health?
We don’t experiment on humans. This makes it impossible to prove that a single lifestyle factor is the cause of any illness. Just because people who sleep less are less healthy does not mean that is the reason — it could be that being unhealthy makes you sleep less.
However, as with smoking, alcohol and unhealthy food, the evidence accumulates to an extent that is impossible to ignore.
If I lose out in the week can I catch up with a weekend lie-in?
Yes and no. A study of 40,000 people found that sleeping longer at the weekend did compensate for getting less sleep in the week. However, scientists believe it is far healthier to sleep the correct amount each night.
What about Margaret Thatcher?
Legendarily, she got by on four hours a night. Scientists believe there are indeed individual differences in how much sleep people need but if you think you are getting by fine on five hours, your sleep-deprived brain is probably fooling you.
16 July 2019
Sleep guidance will advise at least seven hours’ rest a night
The guidance is expected to advise that less than seven hours’ sleep every night could be damaging
13 JULY 2019
National guidance on how much sleep people should have each night is set to be published by the Government. As part of a plan to improve public health, it is expected to advise that less than seven hours’ sleep every night could be damaging.
The move resembles Government advice on safe alcohol consumption and on how much time children should spend in front of a screen.
The evidence on the relationship between sleep and health will be reviewed and recommendations made for people of different ages, according to The Times.
The newspaper quoted from a leaked draft of a public health green paper which it said is due to be published by Health Secretary Matt Hancock.
It said much of the paper is focused on obesity and smoking, but that it also makes reference to sleep.
According to The Times, extracts say: “As a first step the Government will review the evidence on sleep and health.
“This is with a view to informing the case for clear national guidance on the daily recommended hours of sleep for individuals in different age brackets and to raise awareness of the key ‘sleep hygiene’ factors that can support healthy sleeping.”
A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said they do not comment on leaks.
Earlier this year a German team of scientists said, in a study published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, they had discovered that sleep improves the ability of immune cells to hit their targets and fight off infection.
Driving tired, with under 6 hours of sleep per night, increases vehicle accident risk
In the USA the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that “drowsy driving” is responsible for a lot of vehicle crashes, deaths and injuries. Evidence from the CDC (Centre for Disease Control) in the USA shows that getting 6 hours of sleep a night or less more than doubles your chances of falling asleep at the wheel. It seems likely that most accidents to sleepy drivers happen between midnight and 6 am, although late afternoon also has a spike in incidents. Many UK airports are allowed night flights, eg. Gatwick, Stansted, East Midlands etc. This is going to increasingly be a problem for people affected by the noise from Heathrow planes. Already planes taking off, heading away, may be heard routinely till 11pm (often later) on some routes. Each morning planes can be heard arriving from about 4.20am. That does not leave anyone who is sensitive to the noise enough time for healthy sleep. There are many known health risks, of noise disturbance during the times people are sleeping, or trying to. The risk of more vehicle accidents, to those who are woken up an hour or two before they want to wake, is another cost of aircraft noise. The loss of quality of life, and the health costs, need to be part of the calculation of the economics of a 3rd Heathrow runway.
Studies show that at least 7 hours of sleep are needed, each night, by adults
Living under a flight path, along which aircraft fly at below – say 7,000 feet – is noisy. It is all the more noisy now that the aviation industry is introducing narrow, concentrated flight paths. These are replacing the older more dispersed routes, as aircraft have new “PBN” technology (like car satnav) and can fly far more accurately than in the past. And it suits the air traffic controllers to keep flight paths narrow. But if airports allow flights at night, or if the “night” period when flights are not allowed is short, this has consequences for people living near, or under, routes. Studies carried out scientifically show adults need at least 7 hours of sleep, each night to be at their healthiest. Children and teenagers need more.There are some people who need more than 7 hours per night, and some need less. It is not good enough to get less one night, and more the next – the brain does not process the day’s memories adequately. Studies show adverse effects of not getting enough sleep, which are not only related to concentration, speed of thinking or reacting etc, but also medical effects. The concentrated flight paths, and airports allowed to have flights all night, are causing very real problems. A study into noise and sleep by the CAA in 2009 looked at the issue, and said a large and comprehensive study is needed, but it is “likely to be expensive.”
Sleep deprivation causes adverse effects on health due to disruption of gene activity
Sleep scientists at the University of Surrey have found that sleep deprivation affects hundreds of genes involved with inflammation, immunity and cells’ response to stress. This might help explain why some people who do not get enough sleep have an increased risk for obesity, heart disease and cognitive impairment. Researchers took whole-blood RNA samples from 26 participants after they had spent a week sleeping 8.5 hours a night, and the same participants after a week of sleeping for just 5.7 hours. That amount of sleep is not unusual for many people, and an estimate from the USA is that perhaps 30% of American adults sleep for under 6 hours. (The study did not look at sleep disturbance, as is the case for aircraft noise). The study found genes related to circadian rhythms, metabolism, inflammation, immune response and stress were all affected by the experiment. Some were more active, and some less, during sleep deprivation. Other studies have found lack of sleep increases the risk of obesity and type II diabetes. It can affect blood sugar levels, and hormones that control appetite. There are also effects on hypertension, elevated risk of stroke and of heart disease.