If you sometimes get the feeling you are surrounded by zombies in the office, you may not be too far from the truth. A new study has found that an alarming one in three Americans are not getting enough sleep, potentially jeopardizing their health, relationships, and work performance.
The report comes from Yong Liu, MD, and colleagues at the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). They published their report Friday in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Using data from the 2014 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, from telephone calls to 444,306 adults across the United States, the researchers determined how many people got more than seven hours of sleep per night and how many got less.
Doctors recommend that adults between the ages of 18 and 60 get at least seven hours of sleep every night for optimum health and well-being. However, according to the study, only 65.2% of people are hitting that goal. That means that almost one in three people in the United States are not getting enough sleep.
Not only are a large number of Americans not sleeping enough, but some areas fare worse than others. In Hawaii, only 56% of people reported getting at least seven hours of shut-eye a night. South Dakota fared better, with 72% of adults getting at least seven hours of sleep. However, that still leaves more than a quarter of South Dakotans sleep-deprived.
The report noted some broad geographical trends in sleep patterns. Those in the Great Plans states seemed to get the best sleep, at 69% to 72% getting at least seven hours of rest. However, in the Southeastern United States and Appalachian mountains, only 56% to 62% of people were getting seven hours of sleep or more per night. These areas also tend to have greater rates of obesity and chronic illness, and there could be a link to the lack of sleep.
Among those with a college degree, 72% reported healthy sleep habits, and 65% of employed individuals got enough sleep. However, those that were unemployed or unable to work had less healthy sleep, with only 60% and 51% getting their shut-eye. Not being married meant less chance of not getting enough sleep, as did being divorced, widowed, or separated.
The study did have some limitations, such as relying on self-reporting instead of objective measures of sleep duration. However, the numbers do mean that there is a problem that needs to be addressed. Things like promoting healthy sleep habits, improving economic situations, calling for doctors to more regularly check for sleep problems, and changing policies related to shift work could all help to improve the nation’s ability to get a good night’s sleep.
The consequences of not getting enough sleep go beyond just being irritable to others and having poorer work performance. Researchers have linked sleeping less than seven hours a night to health problems like an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, and mental distress. Lack of sleep is also associated with a greater overall risk of death. Because lack of sleep impairs brain performance, it can lead to more car accidents and accidents at work, along with more medical errors by healthcare workers.
If you are not getting enough sleep, there are a few things that could help. Going to bed at the same time every night can help improve the body’s ability to sleep, as can avoiding looking at tablets, televisions, or other electronic devices at bedtime. Seeing a doctor can also help find solutions for healthier sleep and look for sleep problems like sleep apnea.