We’re all about a good night’s sleep. But we’re acutely aware that for 31% of the population, insomnia prevents this all too frequently.
But just how big a deal is it? We delve into insomnia statistics to find out how much of a problem this condition really is.
In a nutshell, here’s what we found:
Most of us have probably experienced the odd difficult night's sleep. But for some people, difficulty falling asleep is a regular problem.
To find out what the statistics look like in 2019 for this, we surveyed 500 people in the UK (using Google Surveys). We asked them the following question:
It appears that it's a big problem:
There are differences in responses from men and women too.
Similarly, the statistics show different age groups are differently affected:
Survey data isn't the only indicator of how common sleeping troubles and
Usefully, the NHS publishes prescription data each month. This data relates to prescriptions issued by community medical centres like GP surgeries (as opposed to hospitals) in England only. It's also worth noting that a single prescription item can vary in terms of quantity of medication (which can explain why sometimes more prescriptions cost less).
We've analysed some of these huge files to take a look at statistics for just some of the most medicines most commonly prescribed to treat insomnia:
In summary, here's how many individual prescriptions were issued for each of those medications and the cost to the NHS for the month of May 2019.
Prescriptions for Zopiclone haven't grown as much over the past 5 years. However, the numbers remain incredibly high. Statistics suggest this to be much more commonly prescribed as treatment for insomnia than melatonin.
In May 2019, there were 438,399 prescriptions for Zopiclone issued at a cost of £292,354 (making this also, it seems, a much lower cost drug).
A much less commonly prescribed insomnia medication (the numbers suggest), Chloral Betaine was prescribed just 393 times in England in May 2019 at a cost of £60,139 making this one of the more expensive options.
Prescriptions for chloral betaine have been steadily declining over the past 5 years as shown below:
Arguably one of the more widely heard of treatments for insomnia, temazepam was prescribed 78,487 times in May 2019 at a cost of £263,805.
As shown below, this is another medication being prescribed less while other medicines like melatonin are being prescribed more.
This medication was prescribed 2703 times in England over the course of May 2019. The cost was £14,899. The number of prescriptions here has been relatively consistent over the past 5 years.
Bear in mind that this isn't a complete list of all medications for insomnia and indeed some of these may, on occasion, be prescribed for other conditions.
But of the drugs above, we can see that in May 2019, the NHS spent £3,289,079 on community issued prescriptions for medications commonly used to treat insomnia.
Assuming a relatively consistent spend each month, that means the cost is some £39.5 million per year.
As with many problems we encounter in our lives, we generally go to Google for solutions. And sleep troubles is no exception to this rule. According to data obtained using Kwfinder.com:
This is the tip of the iceberg. 1,000 per month for “insomnia treatment,” a further 1,000 for “how to cure insomnia,” and hundreds of thousands of additional queries for variant keywords make sleep and trouble getting to sleep a big searching point in Google UK.
Based on Google Trends data, which shows how volume is changing over time, searches for “I can’t sleep” peaked between February and April 2011 before dropping slightly again and remaining relatively consistent since.
Each year, certain months seem to yield peaks and troughs in terms of search statistics for this keyword too. In most years we see January as a peak month for searches.
If we look at that query (“I can’t sleep”) on a global scale, the UK is the 3rd most active nation in the world for searching it:
We’re not shy about sharing our sleeplessness on social channels either, particularly Instagram:
As of July 2019 there are:
In fact, Instagram even shows a warning now when you try to access content tagged #insomnia:
Insomnia is a huge problem with a cost of at least £39.5 million per year to the NHS.
With almost a quarter of people in the UK stating they have difficulty falling asleep every single night, sleep troubles in general (whether technically insomnia or otherwise) are an issue.
If you're affected by insomnia or other sleep problems, there are some resources below you may find helpful:
Header image our own released under Creative Commons here.