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Counting sheep and sick days: Poor sleep causing 14.4 million sickies a year

  • A third (36%) of UK adults do not feel like they are getting enough sleep1
  • Staying up too late, using mobile phones in bed and poor physical or mental health are the key reasons for poor sleep
  • Only around a third (30%) have sought help to improve their sleep

Restless nights are causing restless employees, with poor sleep contributing to 11% of sick days in the last year, new research from Canada Life reveals. 2

On average, UK adults get 6 hours and 12 minutes of sleep a night - less than the NHS recommended 7-9 hours. 3 This, as well as waking up twice a night on average, means a third (36%) do not feel like they are getting enough quality sleep most nights. More than one in six (16%) feel they aren’t able to keep good physical and mental health as a result of poor sleep, and 63% feel the desire to nap at some point during the day.4

For one in six (15%) UK workers, this means they have had to take on average three sick days from work in the last 12 months. This means lack of sleep leads to 14.4 million sick days every year.5

The reasons for poor sleep are far reaching, with 24% admitting they stay up too late and 14% owing it to using their mobile phones and other tech devices in bed. However, for 21%, bad nights are caused by physical conditions or illnesses, and 17% because of poor mental health, - a quarter (25%) of whom have had to take a sick day to catch up. One in ten (11%) UK employees struggle with poor sleep because their partner snores, 16% have insomnia and 12% say their financial situation is stressful and keeps them awake.

While three in 10 (30%) have sought help to address their poor sleep hygiene, 70% have not. Of those who have tried to improve their sleep, 45% have taken sleeping pills or medication, 36% have spoken to an NHS doctor, 32% have tried meditation or mindfulness, 29% have used alternative or herbal medicine and 23% used an app.

John Kendall, Senior Rehabilitation Consultant at Canada Life said: “Lack of sleep and poor sleep quality is a really important factor in our overall well-being and wellness. It underpins everything we do, forming the basis of how we feel, our health, wellness, our relationships, and our professional lives. If we can get sleep right, we are more resilient to the hurdles that life throws our way, and we can improve our health and wellness, the quality of our relationships, and how we perform at work.

“Employers can play an important role in giving employees access to the right kind of help to improve their sleep and therefore, their overall wellbeing. Benefits like providing access to virtual GPs and support services can play a huge role. MyStrength is Canada Life’s mental wellbeing app, available to all employees and immediate family members of companies who have a workplace protection policy with Canada Life6. The app offers users access to programmes and modules based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, specifically designed to help improve sleep. In fact, the sleep improvement module is currently the most accessed and completed app on myStrength7. This means around 5% of the UK’s workforce - or 2.8 million workers - are able to proactively manage or improve their wellbeing at their own convenience.”8

Top tips for better sleep hygiene:

  1. Cut down your screen time in the evening. Try to avoid screens completely for an hour or two before bed, or if you need to use one - change your settings to night mode or dark mode, or turn the brightness down. If you can, buy an alarm clock so you can leave your mobile phone out of the bedroom altogether.
  2. Ensure your sleeping area is comfortable. Experiment with different temperatures, background noise, and lighting. While some people like a cool, dark and quiet room, others sleep better with a night light, or some background noise.
  3. Try to relax before you get into bed. There are lots of apps available with breathing exercises, mindfulness and guided meditation exercises to help with this.
  4. Establish a routine, and stick to it. This will help your body relax and prepare itself for sleep.
  5. Keep a notepad and pen next to your bed. Lots of people find their mind wandering before sleep - write down your thoughts in the notebook so you can compartmentalise and pick them up in the morning.



Press enquiries should be directed to:

Lizzie Murray, Vested, 07914 698310,

Elle McAtamney, Canada Life, 07913 568213,

Notes to editors:


  1. The research was commissioned by Canada Life and conducted by Opinium, with a nationally representative sample of 2000 UK adults, between 21st and 25th July 2023.
  2. Government stats show workers take on average 131m sick days a year Health matters: health and work - GOV.UK ( Opinium survey data shows 14.4m sick days were taken because of poor sleep. 14.4m/ 131m = 11% of sick days taken due to sleep related reasons
  4. 10% frequently feel the desire to nap during the day, 16% often feel the desire, and 37% sometimes feel the desire.
  5. 15% of UK workers have taken a sick day due to lack of sleep, equating to 4.8m people. These workers take a median average of three sick days off each year. 4.8 million x 3 days = 14.4 million sick days taken
  6. myStrength is available to all existing and future Group Income Protection, Group Life and Group Critical Illness customers of Canada Life, at no additional cost
  7. Source: Teladoc Health. ‘How we can help with sleep’ is the most accessed and completed module on myStrength, between February and June 2023.
  8. myStrength is a non-contractual benefit provided through Canada Life and can be altered or withdrawn at any time


myStrength has been developed by Teladoc Health UK.


About Canada Life:

Canada Life is part of a group of companies controlled by Great-West Lifeco Inc., a diversified financial services holding company headquartered in Winnipeg, Canada. Through its subsidiary companies, Lifeco has operations in Canada, the United States, and Europe. Great-West Lifeco and its insurance subsidiaries have received strong ratings from major rating agencies.  Great-West Lifeco has over 30 million customers worldwide and £1.341 trillion assets under administration (as at 31.12.21).


Canada Life Limited began operations in the United Kingdom in 1903 and looks after the retirement, investment and protection needs of individuals and companies alike. As well as providing stability and security through its individual contracts, Canada Life Limited has grown to become the leading provider of competitively priced group insurance solutions.


Canada Life Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Registered in England and Wales no. 973271. Registered office: Canada Life Place, Potters Bar, Hertfordshire EN6 5BA. Canada Life Platform Limited, trading as Canada Life, is a subsidiary of The Canada Life Group (UK) Limited, and is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered in England and Wales no. 8395855. Registered office: Canada Life Place, Potters Bar, Hertfordshire EN6 5BA.