According to Dr Nicole Tang in the Department of Psychology, working on getting a better night's sleep can lead to optimal physical and mental wellbeing over time. He also emphasizes that quality of sleep is more important than quantity of sleep.
‘Working on improving the quality of sleep and the reduction of sleep medication could be an effective, cheap and simple public health strategy.’
Researchers analyzed the sleep patterns of more than 30,500 people in UK households across four years and found that improving sleep quality leads to levels of mental and physical health equal to that of somebody who has won a jackpot of around £200,000.
The positive changes in sleep over time included:
- improved quality and quantity
- using less sleep medication
These changes are associated with improved scores on the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ), which is used by mental health professionals to monitor psychological wellbeing in patients.
Lack of sleep, bad quality sleep, and using more sleep medication can lead to worsened medical and emotional states.
This research proves that improving the quality and quantity of sleep among the population and discouraging the use of sleep medication is an effective, simple and cheap method of raising the health and wellbeing of society as a whole.
It is also advisable to promote working on getting good quality sleep, and the reduction of sleep medication, should be promoted as a public health value.
Dr Tagng says, "We are far from demonstrating a causal relationship, but the current findings suggest that a positive change in sleep is linked to better physical and mental wellbeing further down the line. It is refreshing to see the healing potential of sleep outside of clinical trial settings, as this goes to show that the benefits of better sleep are accessible to everyone and not reserved for those with extremely bad sleep requiring intensive treatments."
"An important next step is to look at the differences between those who demonstrate a positive and negative change in sleep over time, and identify what lifestyle factors and day-to-day activities are conducive to promoting sleep. Further research in this area can inform the design of public health initiatives." Dr Tang added.
The paper, 'Changes in Sleep Duration, Quality, and Medication Use are Prospectively Associated with Health and Wellbeing: Analysis of the UK Households Study' is published in SLEEP
It is co-authored by Dr Mark Fiecas, Esther Afolalu and Professor Dieter Wolke.
- Nicole K. Y. Tang et al. Changes in Sleep Duration, Quality, and Medication Use Are Prospectively Associated With Health and Well-being: Analysis of the UK Household Longitudinal Study. SLEEP; (2017) doi.org/10.1093/sleep/zsw079