A large section of the working-age British population get no more than five hours sleep a night, new research suggests.
Nearly a quarter of people aged 30 to 50 taking part in a survey admitted missing out on so much sleep that it could be harming their health.
Most people need at least seven-and-a-half hours of sleep a night to function at their best, and some require more.
Lack of sleep has been linked to anxiety, depression, diabetes, heart disease, impaired work performance and an increased risk of accidents.
Psychologists at the University of Leeds conducted the online survey among a representative sample of 1,024 UK residents ranging in age between 18 and 80.
It showed striking levels of sleep deficiency in the 30 to 50 age group, the time of life when work and family stress is at its peak.
Lead scientist Dr Anna Weighall said: “The real concern is actually a quarter of the population is sleeping as little as five hours each night.
“Less than five hours each night is associated with serious negative health outcomes including cardiovascular problems, obesity and diabetes.
“The increasing demands of modern life, social media and connected technologies may affect the quality and quantity of our sleep and pose a serious and detrimental threat to health.”
The research, funded by Silentnight beds, was presented at the British Sleep Society conference taking place in Newcastle.
It found that just 3% of 30-to-50-year-olds planned to sleep just five hours a night and most hoped to slumber blissfully for eight to nine hours.
But when questioned about their previous night’s sleep, almost 25% of this age group reported getting less than five hours.
Dr Weighall said: “What is interesting about previous studies is sleep has usually been monitored by asking people to think about their sleep patterns over a long period of time, and we know this type of question can be subject to memory biases.
“In our study we asked concrete questions about the previous night’s sleep and compared it to reports of average sleep during the previous month.
“This data gives people the chance to have a more complete picture of their sleep, as when looking back over the month as an overview, people are likely generous about how much sleep they are getting, partly because it can be difficult to remember.
“It is also interesting to note the significant gap between how much sleep people think they need or intend to get and how much they actually get. This is of particular interest in terms of how the public health agenda might improve the nation’s sleep because it suggests that we need to focus on giving people the tools necessary to change their behaviour, alongside information about the importance of sleep.”
Of all the participants, 42% said they found their jobs stressful and 30% indicated that their work had negatively affected their sleep during the previous week.
More than a fifth of people questioned said they worked more than 40 hours a week on average.
Individuals under pressure may sleep less than they realise, Dr Weighall added.