Britons are under-sleeping by an average of almost an hour every night, health experts have said.
The average adult sleeps for 6.8 hours a night, below the 7.7 hours people feel they need, the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) said.
This amounts to losing an entire night's sleep over the course of a week, it said.
The RSPH, which represents around 6,000 public health specialists, said that poor sleep has been linked to a range of conditions as it called on the Government to introduce national sleep guidance.
"We do need to wake up to the benefits of sleep - there is a wealth of evidence that lack of sleep is damaging the public's health," said Shirley Cramer chief executive of RSPH.
"Poor sleep and sleep disorders impact on our ability to lead a healthy lifestyle and are associated with a range of diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart attack and depression.
"Our research shows there is a gap in how much sleep the public are getting compared to how much they need.
"Efforts to combat this shortfall could be as critical to optimising our health and wellbeing as maintaining an active lifestyle or having a healthy diet.
"A good starting point would be to ensure sleep has parity alongside other areas of health and develop a national sleep strategy which sets out guidance for the public and highlights what more schools, employers, and healthcare professionals can do to ensure the nation sleeps better at night."