Latest Survey Shows We’re All Sleeping Less… Here’s Why

It’s true that the amount of sleep each person needs is unique and those needs change a whole lot as we get older.

By adulthood we need 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night, but far too many of us don’t get even that.

Of course we all realize the sleep is not only important in refreshing our mind, but also essential for physical health as well.

Which is why the latest survey (Sleep in America™) from the National Sleep Foundation, a non-profit organization of researchers, patients and facilities might leave you wondering.

The annual poll estimates Americans are getting an average 6.7 hours of sleep (down from 7.0 in 2001) on a weekday.

To some that amount of shut eye might sound like heaven. Long commutes, late workdays, jet lag or chronic pain, activities and other commitments often keep us from getting the sleep we really need.

Over the last ten years an increasing number of Americans are getting under 6 hours of sleep a night, and the number who get 8 (or more) hours a night is going down too.

In our hyper busy, 24/7, around the clock world, it’s not surprising that we’re sleeping about hour and a half less than our grandparents did little more than a hundred years ago.

“In the last few years, we’ve seen the economy take a nose dive, and more people are affected by that,” said Dr. Raj Kakar, a medical director at the Dallas Center for Sleep Disorders.

“More people are stressed. Stress is associated with sleep deprivation, anxiety, depression and sleeplessness. The economy is a major factor why people are losing sleep.”

This supports the survey findings of the American Psychological Association, which reported in 2008 that 52% of 7,000 respondents were losing sleep at night from stress.

Add to this the ready accessibility of technology like the internet, cell phones, Blackberries and other devices that make it possible to be connected at all hours, and to do things at any time, anywhere.

And then there are the many distractions and forms of entertainment that no generation have had before. So it is clear why sleep has gotten pushed aside.

Of course not getting enough sleep leaves most of us irritable and feeling drained, as well as burdening us with impaired work performance, lackluster thinking skills and questionable judgment.

It’s a sad fact that an estimated 15-20% of auto accidents are caused by one of the participants falling asleep at the wheel. This happens due to a driver losing the ability to tell when he or she is sleepy, because we’re always tired.

This is how unsuspecting and otherwise well-meaning operators end up falling asleep behind the wheel, because they just don’t recognize how exhausted they truly are.

The National Sleep Foundation poll is a telephone survey of 1,000 people where the respondents are asked to estimate how many hours they sleep.

The government also conducts time use surveys, and has since 1985, that ask people to use diaries to give hour-by-hour details of how they spent the previous day.

These surveys involved about 37,000 subjects between 2003 and 2005. Time use information gathered by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics has consistently reported that American sleep an average 8.6 hours a night.

Why such a big difference in the sleep numbers?

The methods used in the two surveys could be to blame. The number of subjects, and the way the data was collected (memory vs. diary entry) can certainly be factors.

Also, the time use survey may overestimate sleep because time in bed is categorized as sleep… whether you’re sleeping, lying awake or tossing and turning.

What all the experts seem to agree on is that stress and the demands of work rob us of sleep we need. If you end up cutting sleep, don’t plan to do this forever.

Continues below…

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Latest Survey Shows We’re All Sleeping Less… Here’s Why continued

Nearly anyone can improve the quality of their sleep by setting up a regular sleeping routine (your body needs 5-9 hours of sleep every 24 hours).

Go to bed and get up at the same time, even on days off, vacations and holidays.

Keep you sleeping space restful, quiet and a comfortable, constant temperature and you’ve a better chance of making the most out of the sleep you get.

To your good health,

Kirsten Whittaker
Daily Health Bulletin Editor