SUNDAY TIMES - A good snooze worth R2m, bad ones cost R629bn
Sunday Times Lifestyle By The Daily Telegraph, 2017-03-19 00:00:00.0

A good snooze worth R2m, bad ones cost R629bn

The UK loses just over 200,000 working days a year due to lack of sleep among the working population
Image: AFP Relaxnews ©PeopleImages/

Improving your sleep quality is as beneficial to health and happiness as winning the lottery, new research from the University of Warwick has found.

After analysing the sleep patterns of about 30,500 people over four years, scientists at the British university's department of psychology found sleeping well gave a mood boost similar to scooping a jackpot of £120,000 (R1.9-million).

The study, published in the journal Sleep, showed that as people's sleep improved over time, so did their scores on ageneral health questionnaire, which is used by mental health professionals to monitor psychological wellbeing and check for minor psychiatric disorders.

Lead author Dr Nicole Tang said the research showed that improving the quality and quantity of sleep was an effective, simple and cheap method of raising the health and wellbeing of society. She cautioned against using sleeping pills, because these lowered the feelings of wellbeing.

"The current findings suggest that a positive change in sleep is linked to better physical and mental wellbeing further down the line," said Tang.

"It is refreshing to see the healing potential of sleep outside of clinical trial settings, as this goes to show that the benefits of better sleep are accessible to everyone, and not reserved for those with extremely bad sleep requiring intensive treatments.

"An important next step is to look at the differences between those who demonstrate a positive and negative change in sleep over time, and identify what lifestyle factors and day-to-day activities are conducive to promoting sleep."

Research released to mark World Sleep Day this week also showed that insufficient sleep among the UK working population was costing the economy up to £40-billion (R629-billion) a year, which was 1.86% of the country's GDP.

The UK loses just over 200,000 working days a year due to lack of sleep among the working population. These factors combined have a significant impact on the country's economy.

Health problems which are known to impact sleep include obesity, excessive alcohol and sugary drink consumption, smoking, lack of physical activity, mental health problems, long-term health conditions, stress at work, shift work/irregular hours, financial concerns, and long commutes.

According to Google trends, searches for the phrase "How much sleep do I need?" have grown by 1,429% in the UK in the past 10 years, with high search peaks in January, April and September.

In general, adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep, but the exact amount varies from person to person.

Different people need different amounts of sleep, and this depends on your age, your lifestyle, your genes and what you're used to.

Mark Winwood, director of psychological services at AXA PPP healthcare, advised ditching the weekend lie-in and avoiding caffeine before going to bed to ensure a good night's sleep.

"If you can't fall asleep after 20 minutes, get up and do something else instead - try something relaxing like reading or listening to music," Winwood said.

"Only go back to bed when you feel tired. Similarly, if you find you're dozing off on the sofa too early in the evening, get up and do a few jobs so that you save your snoozing for bedtime."