According to a study published by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in their Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, more than one third of American adults are not getting enough sleep on a daily basis. The authors stated that about 35 percent of US adults get less than seven hours of sleep every night, which significantly puts them at a risk of developing obesity, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, heart attack, stroke, chronic mental stress and even death.

This is the first study that analyzes the extent of self-reported sleep deprivation (getting less than 7 hours of sleep per day) for all 50 states, along with the District of Colombia. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society have encouraged adults between the ages of 18 and 60 to get optimal sleep for promoting health and overall well-being.

Nation Of Insomniacs

Due to the rapidity and mechanization of society, most people fail to appreciate and prioritize sleep.

“As a nation we are not getting enough sleep”, stated Wayne Giles, MD, Director of CDC’s Division of Population Health. “Lifestyle changes, such as going to bed and getting up at the same time each night and day respectively and turning off or removing televisions, computers and mobile devices from the bedroom can really help people get the optimum amount of sleep they require for being healthy”.

Dr Shalini Paruthi, Co-director of the Sleep Medicine and Research Center at St. Luke’s Hospital in St. Louis explained that it is important for people to understand the significance of getting sufficient sleep daily. She said that it should be equated to the importance of eating well and exercising. “There appears to be a sort of good cutoff point – if you get at least seven hours of sleep, your body and brain function at their best”.

Key Findings

Researchers from the CDC obtained and analyzed data from the 2014 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), a state-based, random-digit–dialed telephone survey conducted collaboratively by state health departments and the CDC. The main findings of their review were as follows:

  • Healthy sleep duration was lower among non-Hispanic blacks (54 percent), American Indians/Alaska Natives (60 percent), Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders (54 percent) and multiracial non-Hispanics (54 percent), as compared to non-Hispanic whites (67 percent), Hispanics (66 percent) and Asians (63 percent).
  • The prevalence of healthy sleep duration ranged from 72 percent in South Dakota to 56 percent in Hawaii.
  • States clustered in the southeastern region of the United States and the Appalachian Mountains reported getting less than seven hours of sleep per day, which correlated with their high prevalence of obesity and chronic diseases.
  • Unemployed people or those who reported being unable to work had a lower healthy sleep duration (60 percent and 51 percent respectively) as compared to employed people (65 percent).
  • Individuals with a college degree reported the highest prevalence of healthy sleep (72 percent), indicating that a higher education was linked to a better sleep.
  • Married respondents also slept better (67 percent), as compared to those who were single, divorced, separated or widowed.

Sleep Apnea And Snoring Could Also Keep You Awake

In certain cases, it isn’t sleep deprivation that’s making you feel ill and drained – it’s actually the other way around. According to Dr Jordan Josephson, an ear, nose, throat and sinus specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, poor health could also be robbing an individual of optimal sleep. At least one-fourth of the US population suffers from a condition known as ‘sleep apnea’, which causes pauses or shallowness in breathing during sleep.

Moreover, sleep apnea is strongly associated to excessive weight gain, as reported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The study by CDC found that people living in the southeastern region of the United States and the Appalachian Mountains got the least amount of sleep, and they were also the regions with high rates of obesity and various chronic diseases.

Another factor the research highlighted was snoring – these individuals never get sufficient sleep and remain ill-rested.

“If you snore, chances are that even if you’re getting seven hours of sleep, it’s not a refreshing and revitalizing seven hours. “You should consult a physician and take it seriously”.

Tips For Healthy Sleeping

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) has come up with a list of ‘sleep hygiene tips’ to improve sleeping quality and habits. This mainly includes the following guidelines:

·         Healthcare professionals should regularly assess the sleeping patterns of their patients, and discuss any sleep-related problems they might be experiencing.

·         Healthcare professionals and employers must educate the public about the importance of sleep and its influence on their overall health.

·         Individuals must prioritize sleep and adopt healthy sleeping habits.

·         Employers must consider adjusting work schedules and shift hours to facilitate the relevant sleep-related needs of their employees.

Certain general practices that could help achieve a good night’s rest include the following:

·         Have a fixed time for going to bed and waking up each morning.

·         Sleep in a quiet, dark, relaxed environment at a comfortable temperature.

·         Make sure the bed and mattress are comfortable.

·         Get regular exercise and maintain a balanced diet.

·         Avoid exposure to screens (television, mobile phones) or bright light just before sleeping.

·         Avoid consuming a large meal, alcohol or caffeine before sleeping.

·         If you cannot fall asleep within 20 minutes of lying down, get out of bed, do something relaxing and try to fall asleep again.