Millions of Americans aren't getting enough sleep, and their lack of shut-eye is taking its toll — on professional relationships, productivity, public safety and even putting a damper on sex lives, according to a new Sleep in America poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF).
Not only is sleeplessness widespread and on the rise, it's also often ignored, says NSF. Despite the fact that 75 percent of American adults reportedly have sleep problems such as frequent waking or snoring, few actually recognize that they have a problem and few take steps to find a solution.
"The 2005 Sleep in America poll shows that sleep is the great American divide. Half of the country sleeps pretty well — the other half has problems," says Richard L. Gelula, NSF's chief executive officer. "The data provide a compelling snapshot of how our lives are dramatically affected by the way we sleep. People who sleep well, in general, are happier and healthier. But when sleep is poor or inadequate, people feel tired or fatigued, their social and intimate relationships suffer, work productivity is negatively affected, and they make our roads more dangerous by driving while sleepy and less alert," Gelula says.
Some study findings:
- Sixty percent of adults licensed to drive say they have driven while drowsy in the past year, an increase over recent years; 4 percent have had an accident or near-accident because they were too tired, or actually dozed off while driving.
- Sleep-related issues are cited as the most common reason people are late for work. Almost three in 10 working adults say they have missed work, events, activities or made errors at work because of sleep-related problems in the past three months.
- For adults with a partner, sleep problems are doubly disruptive, as one partner’s sleep problem can cause the other to lose, on average, nearly an hour of sleep a night.
- Nearly one-fourth of partnered adults say they have sex less often or have lost interest in sex because they are too sleepy.
- Two-thirds of partnered adults say their partner snores, while six out of 10 of all adults (59 percent) say they snore. More than one-half (57 percent) of those who snore say their snoring bothers others.
- Three in 10 adults with partners (31 percent) take measures to try to prevent their own sleep from being disturbed because of their partner's sleep problem. Most sleep in a separate bed, bedroom or on the couch (23 percent).
- More than one in four respondents (26 percent) are at risk for sleep apnea, according to the NSF's 2005 findings.
- About one-half (54 percent) of those polled say they experienced at least one symptom of insomnia a few nights a week or more in the past year. The most common symptoms are waking up feeling unrefreshed (38 percent) and waking up frequently during the night (32 percent).
- Ten percent of adults say they have unpleasant tingling in their legs that worsens at night. These adults are at risk for restless legs syndrome (RLS), a sleep disorder that often results in uncomfortable leg sensations when they try to fall asleep.