Britain tired and emotional

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BRITAIN IS a nation of insomniacs with two-thirds of the population claiming not to get enough sleep, says a survey.

One in five people say they suffer from a severe lack of sleep and 64 per cent say they could do with more. Only the Swedes complain more, with almost three-quarters claiming they do not spend enough time asleep in bed.

The findings, presented at the European Sleep Research Society's meeting in Madrid yesterday, confirm that worrying about not getting enough sleep is a bigger problem than lack of sleep itself. Psychiatrists say that mood is as important as hours spent asleep in determining how people assess the quality of their time in bed.

Professor Ian Hindmarch, head of the psychopharmacology research unit at the University of Surrey, said: "Insomnia is often a symptom of something else that is wrong, such as anxiety. The survey shows that people with severe insomnia have lived with the condition for up to 10 years."

The survey, commissioned by Rhone-Poulenc Rorer, manufacturers of sleeping pills, was conducted among 9,300 people in Germany, Belgium, Sweden, Britain and Ireland. The Germans were the most alert - less than half the population complained of sleeping difficulties.

Experts say that the pre- occupation with sleep loss is itself becoming a medical problem. The greatest enemy of sleep is worry about the lack of it. Most people who lose sleep will recover it in 24 hours and be able to cope in the meantime. Overcoming the fear of not being able to cope is one way to conquer insomnia.