How much sleep are Britons really getting?

It's an age old question we ask ourselves, our doctors, and our therapists time and time again, "How much sleep do I actually need?"

According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults between the ages of 18 and 64 need seven to nine hours sleep per night. Once we hit 65 this drops to between seven and eight hours. But a recent survey of British sleeping habits has turned up an interesting anomaly concerning the number of hours of sleep Brits are getting each night.

The sleep survey, which queried 500 residents of the United Kingdom aged 18 and over, showed the nice bell curve that usually appears on sleep graphs, with one notable exception.


Usually, sleep patterns generally result in data that, when plotted as lines on a graph, is shaped like a bell, with high numbers in the middle and low numbers tapering off at each end. Where sleep is concerned, this boils down to the fact that the majority of people sleep for between four and eight hours per night, with far fewer managing on less than four hours, or sleeping in excess of eight.

These recent survey results however show a clear discrepancy in this trend in one particular age bracket. Of the 500 individuals surveyed, 13.6% of those aged 25 to 34 reported getting less than two hours sleep per night. This is a very high percentage compared to the other age brackets. With the exception of individuals over 65, who report a much lower percentage (4.6%), the percentage for the those sleeping for less than two hours a night holds steady between 6.5 and 6.9%.

This means that almost twice as many people between the ages of 25 to 34 are sleeping less than two hours per night than any other age bracket.A sizeable dent is made in this bracket's bell curve as a result, as the number of people getting four to six hours sleep per night is considerably lower than the other age brackets save the over 65s.

At the same time, 25 to 34-year-olds showed the lowest percentage (3.6%) out of all groups for getting eight to ten hours of rest. And, conversely, a higher percentage of 25 to 34-year-olds reported sleeping six to eight hours per night than the other age groups. 54.8% stated they slept between six and eight hours, compared to the other age boundaries that recorded between 42.8% and 48.7%.

A sizeable dent is made in this bracket's bell curve as a result, as the number of people getting four to six hours sleep per night is considerably lower than the other age brackets save the over 65s. Only 19.2% of those aged 25 to 34 reported getting four to six hours of sleep a night, compared to 28.8%, 26.2%, 30.9% and 30.5% for ages 18 to 24, 35 to 44, 45 to 54, and 55 to 64, respectively.

At the same time, 25 to 34-year-olds showed the lowest percentage (3.6%) out of all groups for getting eight to ten hours of rest. And, conversely, a higher percentage of 25 to 34-year-olds reported sleeping six to eight hours per night than the other age groups. 54.8% stated they slept between six and eight hours, compared to the other age boundaries that recorded between 42.8% and 48.7%.

These results paint an interesting picture of the sleeping habits of those in their mid 20s to mid 30s, who appear to be bucking the trend and getting two hours of rest or less, or alternatively are settling down for the night and getting the previously coveted eight hours of sleep.

NHS guidelines and studies by the National Sleep Foundation have demonstrated that the amount of sleep needed for individuals varies considerably depending on a number of factors. Their research has, however, indicated that we all still need between six and nine hours of good sleep in order to look and feel our best. But the results of this survey beg to question: do 25 to 34-year-olds have a higher tolerance for less sleep, or are they simply more likely to suffer at less than peak efficiency?

Given that this is the age most adults really start to get going in their careers, but haven't yet slowed down their youthful antics, it's possible it is a golden age of sorts where sleep is concerned, allowing some individuals to function at peak efficiency on very little rest. The alternative is more troubling; this relatively young group are under so much pressure they are regularly getting far less sleep than they need, and that is a very worrying possibility indeed.