As every school child in the United States knows, Britain is the country that gave birth to the United States. As America’s parent and closest ally, there are many things that the two countries have in common, and according to a newly released study, that includes one of our worst habits: residents of Britain are short-changing themselves when it comes to sleep.
According to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Hertfordshire, almost sixty percent of people in Britain are getting less than seven hours of sleep each night. That number has increased by fifty percent in a single year, putting Brits at serious risk for a number of serious health conditions, including obesity, heart attack, diabetes and cancer.
In addition to the problem of people simply not prioritizing sleep as much as they should, much of the increase in sleep deprivation has been attributed to the use of new gadgets within two hours of heading to bed. Many studies have shown that the blue light emitted by computers and smart phones fools the body into thinking that it is morning, speeding up the metabolism, reducing the production of the sleep hormone melatonin, and generally interfering with the ability to sleep.
According to Professor Richard Wiseman of the University’s department of Public Understanding of Psychology, “The blue light from these devices suppress the production of sleep-inducing hormone melatonin, and so it’s important to avoid them before bed. This is a huge rise in sleep deprivation and the results are extremely worrying because getting less than seven hours sleep a night is below the recommended guidelines.”
The study was conducted as an online survey and involved 2,149 adult participants, who were questioned about their sleep habits. Seventy eight percent admitted to utilizing a smart phone or computer within two hours of going to bed, and that number increased to ninety one percent for those between the ages of 18 and 24.
In addition to determining that the British public is as sleep deprived as their American cousins, the study also revealed that their dreams are not good. Only ten percent reportedly indicated that they would describe their dreams as being “pleasant,” though that information varied across different regions in the United Kingdom. According to Wiseman, “those in London and the Southwest agreed the most, and those in the Northwest and Midlands agreed the least.”
There are a number of things that people can do to improve their sleep, with the list being topped by eliminating the use of any type of blue-light device within two hours of bedtime. Scientists also suggest creating lists of tasks that have to be done the next day, thus eliminating the need to lie awake thinking about it. They also suggest exhausting your brain a bit by playing mind games such as trying to think of an animal that starts with each letter of the alphabet.