Restless Britain: Sleeping habits of the nation revealed

Man and woman trouble sleeping

Love it or hate it, sleep is a vital part of life- but for some, it comes easier than it does for others.

So what is making Britain restless? We have conducted a study to discover just that. Whether it is temperature, a significant other or a condition we have asked the public to tell us what keeps them up at night- and to help- we have enlisted the help of our resident sleep expert Dr Lindsay Browning to provide some tips on how to get to sleep when faced with these disturbances.

The heat is Britain’s biggest pet peeve when trying to sleep: Here are the 30 things keeping the UK awake at night

The study revealed that 4 in 10 Brits don’t sleep well on an average night, but why?

When asked to select which things were most likely to wake them up or keep them awake at night it turned out that over half of the UK (55%) can’t hack the heat when attempting to sleep. This was followed by anxiety (36%) and needing the toilet (30%).





Being too hot






Needing the toilet



Partner snoring



Your phone






The light (street lights or brighter mornings)



Being too cold



A headache






Uncomfortable bed



Road traffic noises









Too much caffeine



Medical conditions



Your period



Your job (the dread of going the next morning)



Co-Sleeping with a child



Partner taking up too much space in the bed






Sharing the bed with a pet



Duvet thief



Noisy house occupants



Crumbs in the bed



Phobias- dark, spiders



EarWorms (songs stuck in your head)



Skin conditions



Other transport- planes, helicopters, sirens, trains



Drunk partner


Why is it hard to sleep in the heat?

Man can't sleep in the heat

So why do we find it so hard to drop off in the heat, compared to the cold- which only 16% of people cited as a disturbance to their sleep. Dr Lindsay Browning explains: “As we fall asleep our body temperature naturally drops. When the room is too hot, or your covers are too thick, you can struggle to reduce your temperature, which makes falling asleep much harder.”

How to get to sleep in the heat? Five expert tips 

We consulted with our resident sleep expert, Dr Lindsay Browning, to share some of her top tips for getting to sleep in the heat.

  1. Opt for natural fibres!

Whether you are someone that likes to sleep in cosy PJs or in the nude it is important that if you want to stay cool you should stick to natural fibres such as cotton. Cotton pyjamas are great for the heat because they can help to wick away moisture- such as sweat- this is because the vapour is free to transfer through the fibre, lowering the humidity between the fabric and the body, which provides you with a cool feeling. If you do prefer to sleep in your birthday suit (naked) this can also help keep you cool, but only if your bedsheets are made of natural, rather than man made, fibres. For example, polyester fabrics do not absorb sweat, which can make for a moist, clammy uncomfortable night 

  1. Keep the room dark during the day

Although not practical if you are working from home in a bedroom make-do office, keeping the curtains shut during the day will stop the sun from heating up the room, meaning that when bedtime comes around the room is a lot cooler than what it would be otherwise.

  1. Place a frozen water bottle in front of your fan

When in the midst of a heatwave a fan only seems to push around the warm air. To make the fan more effective, freeze a large bottle of water (1.5l or 2l plastic bottle) until completely frozen. When bedtime rolls around, place the frozen water bottle in front of the fan. This will cool the air the fan is blowing, making the room  more comfortable during those unbearably hot nights.

  1. Open the windows overnight

Generally, when it is really hot outside it is a good idea to keep windows closed during the daytime, as you don’t want the hot external air to come into the house warming it up. However, after the sun goes down, the outside air will start to cool down. 

At this point, it is a great idea to open the windows to let a breeze of cool external air into the bedroom, helping cool the room and to provide needed air circulation. If you live by a noisy street this may not be advantageous as the noise may make it hard to sleep, but as long as you don’t live next door to a barking dog or a train station, it’s worth a try. Or you could just invest in some earplugs.

  1. Use a water spray

If you have a clean water spray gun (like the kind you use to spray plants or when ironing), you could gently spray your covers, mattress and pillow with a light mist of water. This will help keep your covers cool. You could also keep the spray by your bed and use it as a cooling spray for your face, neck and wrists during the night when you get too hot. Don’t forget to stay internally hydrated too by drinking plenty of water and keeping a cool bottle of water by the bed.

A QUARTER of Brits suffer from Insomnia

Man sufferring from insomnia

Of course, there are conditions that can affect sleep, our research discovered that the most common was snoring, with just over 3 in 10 Brits suffering from this, the second most prevalent condition was Insomnia.

Insomnia, put simply, is a condition which means you regularly have problems sleeping.

According to the NHS, you have insomnia if you regularly:

  • find it hard to go to sleep

  • wake up several times during the night

  • lie awake at night

  • wake up early and cannot go back to sleep

  • still feel tired after waking up

  • find it hard to nap during the day even though you're tired

  • feel tired and irritable during the day

  • find it difficult to concentrate during the day because you're tired

Other conditions that affected the UK’s sleep included:


Respondents (%)





Sleep talking


Night terrors


Sleep paralysis


Sleep walking



A THIRD of the UK rely on sleeping aids for a restful night- and some are eating kiwis...

So, how are Brits managing the difficulty of sleeping? Well, 33% turn to sleep aids, with 20% opting for a herbal remedy and 13% relying on prescribed medication to get some kip.

However, some have admitted to extremes when suffering from a lack of sleep...

At the top of the list there is slept elsewhere (54%) however, less usually answers included napping while working from home (29%), tried a hack (11%)- some of the hacks listed were:

  • Pillow sprays

  • Ocean sounds

  • Lavender essential oils

  • Blinking

  • Breathing techniques

  • CBD oil

  • Meditation

  • Warm milk and honey

  • Eating a kiwi before bed

  • YouTube videos

  • Put a golf ball in partner’s shirt

Some have even resulted to violence, 22% admitting to hitting their partner to stop them snoring. 6% even have or have considered breaking up with their partner due to snoring!

As a result of poor sleep have you ever...

Respondents (%)

Slept elsewhere, such as the sofa, to sleep better


Had a nap while working from home


Fallen asleep on public transport


Recorded your partner snoring as evidence


Hit your partner to stop them snoring


Kicked a partner out of bed to get a better night's sleep


Tried a ‘hack’ to sleep better


Nodded off behind the wheel when driving


Broken up with or considered breaking up with a partner because of their snoring


Sleeping preferences: 44% of women in relationships would rather sleep alone than with a partner- compared to just 35% of men

We all have our sleeping preferences and for 47% of Brits that is alone in bed. While 1 in 4 would prefer to cuddle up with their partner, and more would rather share their bed with their pet (7%) than their child (4%).

But it seems there is an imbalance between the genders, with 44% of women in relationships preferring to sleep on their own instead of with their partner- whereas only 35% of males in relationships would prefer to sleep alone and over half (52%) would prefer to share their bed with their significant other.

Getting dirty under the sheets: a QUARTER of Brits never wash their mattress!
lady changing the bedsheets

When asked how often Brits clean their mattresses, a quarter admitted that they NEVER clean their mattress. Most (27%) opt for a mattress wash once a month or once every six months and over one in ten choose to undertake the task once a year.

How often do you clean your mattress?

Every 6 months


Once a month




Every year


Every two years




But should you be cleaning your mattress?

The short answer is yes! The average person spends about a third of their lives in bed (although sometimes it still doesn’t feel like enough) so your mattress can become a breeding ground for bacteria, fungi and dust mites- all of which can cause skin irritation, illness and sleep disruption.

According to The Sleep Council

  • The average adult loses 285ml of fluid each night. 

  • An average bed contains 10,000 dust mites that produce more than two million droppings, which can aggravate allergies. 

  • Humans shed around 454g of dead skin over the course of a year, much of which ends up nestled in your bed. 

  • A dirty mattress can contain worrying levels of staphylococcus, enterococcus, norovirus and even MRSA.

A mattress subjected to usual wear and tear should be replaced every 10 years but cleaned a lot more often than that. 

How do you clean a mattress?

Of course it isn’t a case of throwing it into the washing machine and hoping for the best, and we recommend hiring a professional to deal with the task if you are only planning on doing so every 6-months as this will ensure the job is done thoroughly and carefully.

However, if you are looking to DIY, then here are some helpful tips:

  1. Gently vacuum the surface of the mattress. For this, you should use the upholstery attachment on your vacuum cleaner. Once you have gone over the mattress once, go back and focus on any crevices on the surface to make sure you pick up every last bit of dust and dead skin. If it's two-sided, flip it and make sure you vacuum both sides of the mattress.

  1. Vacuum under the bed to remove dust at the same time, to make sure all surrounding dust is tackled.

  1. Air your mattress for a few hours to let the fabric breathe. Open the bedroom window to let fresh air circulate around the room and pass through the fabric in your mattress. If there is an unpleasant smell, sprinkle a layer of bicarbonate of soda all over your mattress and leave it to sit for as long as possible (preferably overnight), then vacuum the bicarb up and the smell should be gone.

  1. Remove stains, this is not an easy task. Most stains can be lightened or removed if tackled immediately with cold water and blotting. If it is a more serious stain such as coffee or urine, use some diluted washing up liquid and gently dab the stain.

  1. Once this is done and the mattress is dry (if removing stains) remake the bed. We recommend using a mattress protector beneath your sheet to protect your mattress from dust and sweat, as this means you won't have to clean the mattress so often.

Luckily, when it came to bedding Brits were a little more vigilant about their cleanliness. The majority of the UK (37%) wash or change their bedding every week or once a fortnight (34%). However there were still 1% of respondents that admitted to never washing their bedding!

How often do you change/wash your bedding?

Every week


Every 2 weeks


Once a month


Every other day


Every 6 months


Every two years




Every year


Invest in better sleep

With 14% of the UK being kept awake by an uncomfortable mattress, it may be time to invest in better sleep and purchase a new one. A Vispring mattress is handmade using only natural materials such as wool, cotton and horsehair, rather than synthetic materials and foam, allowing for a cooler and more comfortable night’s sleep.

27th July 2021

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