Sleeping With One Eye Open: Alarming Lack Of Sleep For SME Owners Plagued By Financial Woes

  • Small business owners are struggling with sleep, with a third surviving averaging less than 5 hours sleep a night
  • Over half (56%) of small business owners have experienced poor mental health over the past 12 months
  • In the midst of a cost of living crisis, 41% say ‘financial worries’ are having the single biggest impact on their mental health
  • Simply Business has partnered with Mental Health at Work, a programme curated by leading mental health charity Mind, and has donated £100,000 to support the mental health of the UK’s self-employed

5th June 2023, London: A third of SME owners are operating on less than 5 hours sleep a night, significantly less sleep when compared to the UK national average. Financial worries (43%) and concerns about the future of their business (33%) are highlighted as the main reasons for keeping them awake. 

New research by Simply Business, one of the UK’s biggest providers of small business insurance, has uncovered the full extent of the mental health challenges facing the UK’s self-employed. Half of SME owners in the UK say they have experienced poor mental health over the past 12 months. 

Sleep is critical for maintaining overall health. As well as the obvious physical benefits that come with sleep, a lack of sleep can lead to feeling more anxious, isolated or lonely – all factors which can already feel like a struggle for small business owners.


With one in three (33%) opening up about experiencing burnout, it is clear that the lack of rest is taking its toll on the country’s SME owners. Three in five (59%) have experienced anxiety (59%), while depression (38%) and feelings of loneliness (22%) are also common for small business owners. 

A lack of sleep is not the only challenge that SME owners are forced to grapple with, many are also unable to take time off, further worsening their mental health challenges. Three quarters (73%) of small business owners take less than 20 days annual leave, and over a third (40%) state they wouldn’t take time off even when they were experiencing poor mental health, even after acknowledging that time off would benefit them and their business. 


Recent research shows that, shockingly, nine in 10 (90%) don’t believe that the government is doing enough to support and champion the mental health of vital self employed workers across the UK. Small businesses are currently unable to claim the same rights as employees when it comes to statutory sick pay and holiday entitlement. The insights show that small business owners want to improve their mental health, but are unable to access resources that they need to do so. 

Simply Business have partnered with Mental Health at Work, a programme curated by leading mental health charity Mind, to champion the mental health of SME owners across the UK. Simply Business is giving small business owners a chance to win a £2,000 wellbeing package – including holiday vouchers, access to a virtual assistant, and financial and business coaching. 

Small businesses can find free mental health resources and enter the competition via the Simply Business website: 

Bea Montoya, Chief Operating Officer at Simply Business, commented: “The worrying state of small business owners’ mental health has been laid bare in our recent research – with a third of SME owners operating on less than 5 hours sleep a night. The long hours, rare breaks and sleepless nights are leaving many on the brink of burnout. With over half suffering from poor mental health in the last 12 months alone. During a cost of living crisis, the self-employed are working at capacity.

“And the situation should concern us all. Small businesses are vital to both our economic recovery and the prosperity of our communities, and this will only compound the challenges of an increasingly economically inactive population. 

“From financial worries and stress, to isolation and insomnia – it’s critical that the real people behind the country’s SMEs are given the support they need. That’s why we’ve partnered with Mental Health at Work to raise awareness of the challenges facing this audience, and create tailored resources designed to help.”

A range of tailored resources are also available at Mental Health at Work here: