People need an average of 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night. A new study by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) has found that an entire night's sleep is lost every week among Brits.

The RSPH warns that people in the United Kingdom are under-sleeping by an average of almost one hour every night. Experts urge the government to introduce a national sleep guidance time to help inform residents about the importance of having enough sleep at night.

The poll, which involved 2,000 UK adults, revealed that an average sleep time is about 6.8 hours, which is lower than the average 7.7 hours the respondents believe they need. About 54 percent reported feeling stressed because of lack of sleep and 36 percent said they have eaten unhealthy food because they lack sleep. On average, four in 10 of these adults have even fallen asleep while on public transport.

As a result, the RSPH urges the government to establish a national sleep strategy. It also calls for regular screening for insomnia, the chronic lack of sleep, and training for health professionals to deal with these cases.

The government agency also asked that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to be made accessible for people who are suffering from sleep disorders.

"The importance of sleep for individual and societal benefit has been almost completely neglected in both policy and practice," said Colin Espie, Professor of Sleep Medicine at the University of Oxford.

"Insomnia, the most common expression of mental disease is like a Cinderella disorder - seldom receiving proper attention, despite the fact that it is the most treatable pre-cursor to depression," he added. 

Sleep is an important way for the body to recharge after a long day's work. The average hours of recommended sleep differ between age groups.

For infants and toddlers, they need at least 9 to 10 hours of sleep with additional 2 to 3 more hours of nap time. School-age kids should sleep for about 9 to 11 hours while adults need at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep.

Lack of sleep has been linked to a wide array of health complications including cardiovascular diseases, impaired memory, obesity and diabetes among others. People who lack sleep may feel fatigue, a feeling of extreme tiredness.

Some sleep deprived people may experience short temper, lack of focus and irritability the next day. When sleepless nights span through consecutive days, mental effects may emerge such as difficulty to concentrate and impaired problem solving skills. In the long run, the performance in school or work can be negatively impacted. 

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