News Release

Links between poor sleep and poor mental well-being

Peer-Reviewed Publication

University of Leeds

Inadequate sleep at night leads to poor memory and increases the risk of depression, anxiety and stress, according to research revealed today.

A study found that those who got less than five hours a night found it difficult to function effectively during the day - with people forgetting to carry out tasks, struggling to remember where things were, and forgetting to do something they had set out to do such as post a letter or take medication.

Ensuring people get adequate sleep should be a public health priority in the way that encouraging exercise and controlling weight gain are, they argue.

The study, by academic psychologists Dr Anna Weighall and Dr Ian Kellar from the University of Leeds, looked at data from a survey of the sleeping habits of more than 1,000 UK adults aged 18 to 80, conducted in collaboration with UK bed manufacturer, Silentnight.

Dr Weighall, revealing the findings at a meeting of the European Society of Cognitive Psychology in Postdam, Germany, said: "A lot of previous sleep research has been based on lab studies - this is the first time we have surveyed people in their everyday lives.

"What is emerging is the debilitating impact of poor patterns of sleep. People who are not getting enough sleep are at risk of experiencing a much lower quality of life and it hinders their ability to function effectively when they are awake."

Scientists have recognized that sleep is important for laying down new memories - and in re-processing what is already "stored" in the brain, selecting what needs to be retained and what can be forgotten.

This study looked at the relationship between quality and quantity of sleep and the cognitive processes around memory and recall, as well wider indicators of physical and mental wel-being.

It involved asking volunteers to fill out a questionnaire about their sleep patterns, memory performance, mental wellbeing and quality of life.

An analysis of the responses found a statistically significant relationship between poor sleep and reduced mental wellbeing, and a highly significant relationship between lack of sleep and an increase is everyday memory problems.

These relationships were even stronger in those who habitually sleep for less than five hours a night.

Dr Weighall said: "There is now a very compelling case to say there is a strong relationship between getting a good night's sleep and experiencing better health, wellbeing and memory function."

The findings indicate that many UK adults are sleep deprived and that this presents a real issue for public health.

Dr Kellar, a health psychologist, said sleep needed to be seen as a public health priority in just the same way as maintaining a healthy weight, eating a healthy diet, and engaging in physical activity.

The NHS recommendation is that adults should aim to get between seven and eight hours of sleep a night.

Silentnight estimates that one in four adults gets less than five hours sleep a night.


Notes to editors:

For further information, please contact David Lewis in the University of Leeds press office on 0113 343 8059 or

Findings from independent academic research conducted by a team of psychologists at the University of Leeds, led by Dr Anna Weighall, a developmental cognitive psychologist and sleep expert. The study was a rigorously designed and empirically robust online survey of 1,018 UK resident adults.

Silentnight funded the research.

University of Leeds

The University of Leeds is one of the largest higher education institutions in the UK, with more than 33,000 students from 147 different countries, and a member of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities.

We are a top 10 university for research and impact power in the UK, according to the 2014 Research Excellence Framework and we are The Times and The Sunday Times University of the Year 2017. Additionally, the University has been awarded a gold rating by the Government's Teaching Excellence Framework recognising its 'consistently outstanding' teaching and learning provision.


Silentnight is part of Silentnight Group, the UK's largest manufacturer of branded beds for the home that also owns Rest Assured, Layezee, Sealy and the Pocket Spring Bed Company.

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