The Government is set to launch a new campaign to encourage the middle-aged to get more sleep over fears their hectic lifestyle is damaging their health.

Multiple studies have shown that a lack of sleep is associated with other problems such as diabetes and heart disease – with the sleep-deprived 12 per cent more likely to die prematurely.

Now Public Health England is planning to encourage adults between the ages of 40 and 60 to spend more time in bed as part of a wide-ranging campaign to boost the nation’s health.

The middle-aged will be targeted by a major publicity drive in the Press and online, aiming to help them live more healthy lifestyles and reduce the risk of serious illness.

The middle-aged are set to be targeted by a new health campaign encouraging them to get more sleep (picture posed by model)

Health bosses fear that the age group is often ‘neglected’ because people focus more on the health problems suffered by children and the elderly.

Along with more traditional lifestyle changes such as giving up smoking and eating healthier, the over-40s will be told to ensure they get enough sleep.

Research from the University of Warwick has found that failing to get enough sleep can have deadly consequences, increasing the risk of heart attacks and strokes as well as obesity.

People who sleep for less than six hours a night – more than a third of the population, according to the Sleep Council – are 12 per cent likely to die early than those who sleep for six to eight hours.

Scientists say that sleep deprivation upsets the balance of key hormones leptin and ghrelin, which regulate the appetite and help us know when we have eaten enough.

The modern lifestyle of staying up late and getting up early is a ‘ticking time bomb for our health’, according to researchers.

One contributing factor is the increasing use of smartphones and tablets before going to bed, which reduces the level of melatonin and makes it harder to get to sleep.

Danger: Using tablet computers before bed contributes to sleep deprivation (picture posed by model)

Danger: Using tablet computers before bed contributes to sleep deprivation (picture posed by model)

Adrian Williams, professor of sleep medicine at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, told the Sunday Times that a new focus on sleep disorders would help people’s all-round health.

He said: ‘People don’t sleep enough in general and the amount of sleep we are getting has reduced over the years.’

Derk-Jan Dijk of Surrey University welcomed the decision to concentrate on the middle-aged, saying: ‘It is that group that are the most sleep-deprived, probably because of greater occupational and family demands.’

A Surrey study found that people who get less than six hours of sleep can change 700 different genes, possibly explaining why they suffer from such a range of health problems.

A spokesman for Public Health England declined to give any details of the forthcoming campaign, which will target a range of health indicators.

In a marketing document published last month, the organisation said: ‘It will speak holistically to adults in mid-life encouraging them to make seven lifestyle changes – stopping smoking, reducing alcohol consumption, taking more exercise, improving diet, reducing stress, improving sleep and checking for common signs and symptoms of disease.

‘By making these seven changes they vastly improve chances of a longer, more active and fulfilled life.

‘Physical and cognitive decline are not inevitable, indeed only around 20-30 per cent of what we think of as “ageing” is biological; the rest is “decay” or “deterioration”, which can be actively managed or prevented.

‘The years between ages 40 and 60 are thus a unique but neglected opportunity for intervention.’

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