Poll: Americans Short on Sleep

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.


Better Sleep, Healthier Body

Quantity, Quality Matter

American adults average 6.9 hours of sleep each night, slightly less than the range of the seven to nine hours recommended by many sleep experts. However, the 2005 Sleep in America poll also indicates that more people now say they are sleeping less than six hours on weekdays (16 percent) and weekends (10 percent) compared to respondents in NSF's 1998 poll, which found 12 percent sleeping less than six hours on weekdays and 8 percent getting that amount on weekends.

On average, America's adults say they need a minimum of 6.5 hours of sleep a night to function their best the next day; and about three-quarters of respondents say they get the amount of sleep they need or more. However, one-half of those polled report feeling tired, fatigued or subpar during their waking hours at least one day a week; nearly one out of five (17 percent) say this happens every day or almost every day.

Quality sleep is missing for many adults, according to the poll findings. About one-half of respondents say they get "a good night's sleep" every night or almost every night; however, one-quarter of those polled say they sleep well only a few nights a month or less. Poor sleepers are more likely than good sleepers to say that their intimate relationships are affected because they are too sleepy (34 percent vs. 8 percent).

On at least a few nights of the week, the most popular activity in the hour before bedtime is watching television for nearly nine out of 10 adults, while just over a quarter (27 percent) say they have sex during this time frame. What sleep experts would consider poor sleep hygiene is evident in other activities, such as being on the Internet (28 percent), doing work related to their job (18 percent), drinking an alcoholic beverage (13 percent) and exercising (11 percent).

Health and Medical Conditions

The Sleep in America poll shows a relationship between sleep and health. Adults diagnosed with at least one common medical condition (e.g., high blood pressure, arthritis, heartburn/GERD or depression) are less likely to say they frequently get a good night's sleep, and are nearly twice as likely to experience frequent daytime sleepiness than those who don't have the conditions.

NSF's new poll also confirms an epidemic of obesity in America. Based on body mass index (BMI) measures, the poll finds nearly two-thirds of respondents (64 percent) are overweight or obese, conditions that clearly impact sleep. The data show that compared to adults of average weight, those considered obese are more likely to get less than six hours of sleep on weeknights (18 percent vs. 11 percent), and frequently have daytime sleepiness (37 percent vs. 26 percent). They also are nearly six times as likely to be at risk for sleep apnea (57 percent vs. 10 percent), and are nearly twice as likely to think they have a sleep problem (30 percent vs. 17 percent).

NSF released the 2005 Sleep in America poll as part of its eighth annual National Sleep Awareness Week® campaign, which culminates with the return of daylight saving time. This year's campaign, March 28 to April 3, involves hundreds of partners in communities throughout the country.

The 2005 Sleep in America poll was conducted for NSF by WB&A Market Research, using a random sample of 1,506 adults at least 18 years of age who were interviewed by telephone between Sept. 20 and Nov. 7, 2004. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.5 percent.

The National Sleep Foundation is an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to improving public health and safety by achieving greater understanding of sleep and sleep disorders, and by supporting education, sleep-related research, and advocacy. NSF is based in Washington, D.C.

©2005 National Sleep Foundation. All rights reserved.

©2005 National Sleep Foundation. All rights reserved.