Sleep, Sleep Deprivation and Health

Increasing attention is being paid to the link between sleep and health, along with its implications for policy areas such as public health, education, employment, and housing.

Regular poor sleep has been linked to increased risk of physical health problems, including cancer, cardiovascular disease and stroke, obesity, and reduced immunity, as well as mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. Poor sleep has also been linked with negative health behaviours such as a poor diet and physical inactivity. In hospitals, sleep deprivation has been associated with longer inpatient stays.

Some experts posit that sleep deprivation is chronic and widespread and argue that the issue be given greater focus in national public health policy. Particular emphasis has been on children’s sleep, the link to educational attainment, and contributing factors such as school start times, use of electronic devices, and housing quality. Another area of interest is employment policy and occupational health, including shift work and long commute times. For example, irregular sleeping patterns have been implicated in many serious motorway collisions.

This POSTnote aims to give an overview of the scope and quality of current research in sleep and sleep medicine, and highlight implications for policymaking. It will focus on:

  • the relationship between poor sleep and physical health, mental health, behaviour and performance
  • factors contributing to poor sleep, including health, lifestyle, environmental, and occupational aspects
  • current extent of sleep problems within the UK population
    the market of sleep aids and interventions, and associated evidence base
  • implications of poor sleep for policy areas such as public health, education, employment, and housing

For further information or to contribute please contact Lev Tankelevitch or Dr Sarah Bunn.