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Last Updated: Tuesday, 1 March 2005, 10:59 GMT
Many politicians sleep deprived
Jack Straw and John Prescott
Too many late nights?
Politicians are among the most sleep deprived people in society, a survey has suggested.

Research by the Sleep Council, which compared eight groups, found the average politician gets by on just over five hours' sleep a night.

Only hospital doctors on-call averaged less shut eye - just 4.5 hours a night.

Topping the sleep league were solicitors who clocked up close to eight hours on a regular basis. One in five slept for an average of ten hours.

Hours slept a night
Solicitors: 7.8
Architects: 7.5
Mothers of young children: 7.1
Social workers: 6.9
Dustmen: 6.5
Teachers: 6.0
Politicians: 5.2
Hospital doctors (on call): 4.5
Jessica Alexander, of the Sleep Council, said: "Time and again research has shown us that lack of sleep affects our ability to think clearly and rationally.

"So the results of this study are of concern in that they demonstrate that our politicians, the people responsible for making decisions that affect all of our lives, may not be in the best mental or physical shape to do so."

Dr David Lewis, who analysed the findings, said there were wide variations across all the occupations.

For instance, some politicians claimed to enjoy the full eight hours while others reported five hours or less each night.

The survey found found hours spent in bed bore little relation to the number of hours actually asleep.

Dr Lewis said: "On average, the length of time between the sheets was nine hours whereas the average time asleep was just under eight.

"Since around half claimed to fall asleep within 15 minutes of their head hitting the pillow, this suggests that many people - especially politicians - find it much harder to drop off.

"One likely reason is that while mentally exhausted they are not sufficiently tired to fall asleep.

"As a result their heads are filled with circulating thoughts and worries which conspire to keep them wide awake."

Sleep problems

Four out of ten (43%) people who took part in the survey go to bed between 10pm and 10.59pm during the working week.

Sleep facts
Humans need around 8 hours sleep per night
Even a sleep debt of seven hours per week can result in burning eyes, blurred vision and waves of sleepiness
The last dream of the night is usually the most vivid and most easily recalled

A half (47%) wake up between 6am-6.59am during the working week, and seven out of ten (70%) get up within 15 minutes of waking.

Around a quarter (28%) reported problems falling asleep, while a similar number (24%) said they woke early.

Frequent waking was a serious problem for around seven out of 10.

One in five (20%) said they woke up between three and six times each night.

Dr Lewis said: "This may not seem all that serious until we realise that even a momentary wakening can result in up to 10 minutes loss of sleep.

"This means that someone who wakes up six times during the night will have lost around one hour's sleep.

"Quite sufficient to build up a serious sleep debt over a week."

While short term sleep loss is nothing to worry about, in the long term it can damage both mental and physical health.

Sleeping on the job
07 Sep 04 |  Magazine


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