A large section of the British working-age 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.

Alarm clock
Some Britons are only getting five hours’ sleep a night (Lukasz Hejnak/Flickr)

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.”

Person staring at Facebook
Social media and technology may affect our sleep patterns (Jonathan Brady/PA)

The research, funded by Silentnight beds, was presented at the British Sleep Society conference 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.

Woman drinking cup of coffee
Lack of sleep may up your coffee intake (Rick Bowmer/AP/PA)

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.”

City workers walking
Individuals under pressure often get less sleep (Philip Toscano/PA )

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, Weighall added.