Requel Cruz, Associate Vice President
Hyderus Finn Partners
MPs calls for national clinical director for sleep to address UK’s ‘hidden sleep crisis’
The UK is currently grappling with a severe sleep crisis, characterised by alarming rates of sleep disorders and insufficient sleep among its population, according to the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Sleep which is urging immediate action to tackle the problem.
Insufficient sleep has been linked to a multitude of detrimental effects, including increased mortality risk, decreased productivity, higher healthcare expenses and an elevated likelihood of accidents. Across the UK, sleep disorders are estimated to place an overwhelming economic burden of £40 billion per year, accounting for lost productivity and healthcare costs.
The APPG for Sleep is calling for the government to appoint a national clinical director for sleep to coordinate efforts to improve sleep health across five main areas:
- Improving the differential diagnosis of different sleep disorders with a particular emphasis on sleep apnoea and chronic insomnia disorder, which can have severe long-term consequences
- Assuring access to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Insomnia (CBTi) as the primary treatment for insomnia
- Cessation of inappropriate medical interventions, such as the use of acute medicines over the long term, that can harm patients
- Providing clinicians with better access to a wider range of sleep treatment and management options as they become available
- Enhancing public information on sleep disorders, prevention, and available treatment options
Recognising the gravity of the situation, the APPG organised a virtual event which brought together MPs, clinicians, employers, trade unions and individuals affected by sleep issues.
Recent survey data from SIMBA in April 2023 has demonstrated that the north-east of England stands as one of the most sleep-deprived areas in the country, with nearly 70% of individuals receiving less than seven hours of sleep per night. Additionally, a 2022 YouGov poll highlighted that poor sleep quality has a greater impact on productivity in the north-east of England compared to other health issues such as anxiety, back pain, depression, or headaches.
The event served as a platform to unite stakeholders and generate momentum for change.
The impact of insufficient sleep on workers was highlighted by Peter McKevitt, regional officer of the United Road Transport Union.
"The impact of sleep disorders on long-term shift workers is a crucial point that needs to be addressed. We have seen cases where individuals who have been working night shifts for years experience mental health issues directly linked to their shift patterns.
"Improving the sleep environment through simple steps can have a dramatic impact on the well-being of shift workers. Companies need to prioritise creating conducive conditions for quality sleep, as it directly affects their employees' performance and overall health."
"When employees report chronic insomnia or other sleep disorders, companies must have a plan in place to support them. This goes beyond anecdotal evidence and requires data-backed strategies to address absenteeism and presenteeism related to sleep issues."
"The tramping jobs, where drivers are uncertain about their sleeping arrangements, pose significant risks for fatigue. Not knowing where you'll sleep or having to pull over and sleep in the truck can lead to exhaustion. Extended working hours and reduced rest periods only exacerbate this fatigue."
"In cases of chronic insomnia, referring individuals to occupational health can be helpful, although it's not mandatory. However, we need to go beyond referrals and ensure access to cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) as a potential treatment option. Collaboration between occupational therapists and general practitioners can lead to effective solutions."
Sleep disturbances are particularly prevalent among women experiencing menopause and peri-menopause, significantly impacting their daily activities and work performance. Moreover, chronic insomnia disorder has profound implications for workplace productivity and overall economic outcomes, costing the UK an estimated £34 billion annually.
Furthermore, the consequences of insomnia and its improper treatment, such as the use of unsuitable medications, can lead to an increased risk of falls among older individuals. Falls can result in severe injuries, reduced independence, and heightened reliance on healthcare services.
To effectively address these issues, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends prioritising Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Insomnia (CBTi) as the primary treatment option, but the availability and access to CBTi across the country remain inconsistent and it is not effective for everyone who tries it. Experts including Prof XXX say there is a need for second and third-line treatments too.
Notes to editors:
About the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Sleep
The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Sleep is a non-party political group of MPs and peers dedicated to raising awareness about the significance of sleep and advocating for improved sleep-related policies and treatments. The group strives to enhance sleep health and well-being in the UK through research, education, and public engagement.
To arrange interviews with event attendees, please contact Jim Smith: firstname.lastname@example.org
APPG enquiries – Hugh McKinney email@example.com