Three quarters of Brits get less than eight hours sleep

Matthew SmithLead data journalist
January 17, 2020, 10:22 AM UTC

One in six get by on less than 6 hours, a figure sleep experts deem unhealthy

It is well known that we should be getting 8 hours sleep a night, but is that actually true? A series of sleep experts interviewed by Quartz revealed that this isn’t strictly the case – different people need different amounts, but most of the population generally need between seven to nine hours.

The fact that the 8 hour rule isn’t essential is just as well, as only a minority of Britons are achieving it. As part of YouGov's new tracker data offering, over the last six months we have asked Britons on a weekly basis how many hours sleep they got a night on average over the preceding seven days.

One in three Britons (32%) have been getting seven hours sleep a night, the most commonly given answer. A further 27% are only getting about six hours a night and one in eight of us (12%) are subsisting on just five hours.

Click to enlarge

Margaret Thatcher is famously said to have only slept four hours a night, but few Brits are able to subsist on the same level. Only 6% say they sleep for four hours or less.

These figures mean as many as one in six Britons (18%) are catching less than six hours sleep a night on average, a level of sleep the sleep experts deemed to be insufficient and unhealthy.

Overall only about one in five of us (22%) are getting our full eight hours or more. The bulk of this group are getting about eight hours (16%), whereas a lucky 5% of the population are positively Rip Van Winkles, achieving sleep periods of nine hours or more.

The tracker does show that Christmas has brought the gift of extra sleep to some Brits. At the start of December 79% of Britons were working with less than eight hours of sleep and 19% were kipping for eight hours or more. But for the week of data covering Christmas itself the number managing to snooze for a full eight hours rose to 27%.

Click to enlarge

The impact of July’s heatwave also shows up in the survey. That week was the only week over the course of the tracker where Britons were more likely to get six hours sleep (30%) than seven hours (29%) – the week before those figures had been 27% and 32% respectively.

Photo: Getty

See the latest data for this tracker here

You can explore YouGov trackers here