Poor sleep affects our wellbeing and everyday lives

Dr Dan Robotham, Senior Research Officer at the Mental Health Foundation:

Every year we host Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW), which highlights a particular issue affecting the mental health and wellbeing of the nation. This year the theme is sleep.

Why sleep? Over 30% of the population currently suffers from insomnia or another sleep disorder. Poor sleep can increase the risks of poor mental health, and can lead to a range of illnesses such as depression and anxiety. Far from being a minor concern, poor sleep can have a major impact on our mental wellbeing and day to day lives, with sleep playing a vital role in our relationships, our mood and our ability to concentrate. New data included in our Sleep Matters report revealed that, in comparison to people who sleep well, people who suffer from insomnia are four times more likely to have relationship problems, three times more like to experience low mood, three times more likely to lack concentration during the day and twice as likely to suffer from energy deficiency.

The impact that sleep problems are having on the health and wellbeing of the UK is far from negligible and needs to be addressed. We have made the following recommendations:

  • Local and national public health campaigns should be organised for schools, workplaces and other public arenas, to highlight the importance of sleep and advise on evidence-based good sleep practice and therapies (as detailed in the report)
  • GPs should be provided with up-to-date information and training about the importance of sleep and evidence-based sleep therapies
  • The government’s new Public Health Outcomes Framework should include specific outcomes on reducing sleep problems
  • NICE should develop guidance on the management of insomnia using evidence-based non-pharmaceutical therapies, such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) - the best proven therapy for persistent insomnia
  • People with sleep problems should be recognised in the government’s Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme, especially regarding access to CBT
  • Further research into low cost CBT-based interventions for sleep problems, such as self-help books and online courses, should be carried out

To do our bit to help the UK achieve better sleep, we have produced a range of free downloadable resources including Sleep Well - a pocket guide with practical tips to achieving better sleep, a download-and-print Sleep Diary, an MP3 providing relaxation techniques, and How Did You Sleep Last Night awareness-raising posters for schools, universities, work places, GP surgeries, libraries or any other public places

Find out more about how sleep can affect your mental health and wellbeing or about Mental Health Awareness Week

Published 25 May 2011 |
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  • Thanks for your audio downloads which have helped me get to sleep.

    Christine Evans 28 May 2011
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