The rise of sleeplessness in increasingly sophisticated economies such as Britain could lead to the creation of a “zombie nation”.
Scientists fear that this lack of sleep could sap the ability of Western society to develop the next generation of technology.
Because of the rise of cheap labour in countries such as China, there has been an increasing emphasis in the West on the ability to innovate.
The Chancellor, Gordon Brown, said he wanted Britain to lead the world in science.
But yesterday an eminent chronobiologist told the Cheltenham Science Festival, sponsored by The Daily Telegraph, that a “zombie nation” could sleep walk to economic disaster.
If given the chance, we spend more hours sleeping than doing anything else.
Symptoms of deprivation range from weight gain to irritability, hallucinations and depression.
A sleep deprivation “epidemic” is spreading through the British workforce, with few people getting a good night’s rest, according to a new report.
Police officers, doctors, nurses and tradesmen and women are worst-affected, sleeping for only around six hours a night, research found.
Hotel chain Travelodge surveyed 5,200 professional workers and found that 97% slept for less than eight hours a night.
The company estimated that most employees are losing more than one complete night’s sleep every seven days, equivalent to two and a half years in a working lifetime.
Company doctors had the least sleep, at 5.9 hours a night, although 8% said they managed only four hours, equivalent to seven years during the course of their career.