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Millions of Americans Don't Get Enough Sleep

Seven hours of rest a night is important for good health, expert says

THURSDAY, Oct. 29 (HealthDay News) -- Only one-third of adults say they are getting enough sleep every night, a new U.S. government report shows.

Some 50 million to 70 million American adults suffer from sleep and wakefulness disorders, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Not getting enough sleep has been tied to mental distress, depression, anxiety, obesity, hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol and certain risk behaviors including cigarette smoking, physical inactivity and heavy drinking.

"There is a relatively small percentage of people getting what sleep experts feel is an adequate amount of rest and sleep," said Dr. Bruce Nolan, director of the sleep center at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, who was not involved in the report. "That is a very important physical and mental health concern."

Getting at least seven hours of sleep results in greater alertness, better work performance and better quality of life, Nolan said. "People who get too little or too much sleep are associated with more health problems, including work problems, performance problems and productivity problems," he noted.

The report is published in the Oct. 30 issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, a CDC publication.

Of the U.S. adults surveyed regarding their sleep in the past month, 11.1 percent said they did not get enough sleep every day of the month.

In addition, CDC researchers found that women (12.4 percent) were more likely than men (9.9 percent) to report not getting enough sleep. There were ethnic differences, with blacks (13.3 percent) saying they got less sleep compared with all other ethnic groups.

There were also geographical differences, which ranged from a low of 7.4 percent of people in North Dakota not getting enough rest to 19.3 percent in West Virginia.

These data were collected from a survey of 403,981 adults living throughout the United States.

The main causes of sleep loss are overlapping and include lifestyle, occupation and specific sleep disorders, the report noted.

In the past, many people thought that sleep was "a waste of time," Nolan said. "It was to be avoided. And getting seven or eight hours of sleep was a sign of laziness," he said.

"That kind of thinking is outdated," he said. "We have lots of evidence that getting good quality sleep is associated with better quality of life."

People who have trouble sleeping should seek the help of a sleep specialist, Nolan said. Also, your doctor should be aware if you are having sleep problems, he said.

Ways to get better quality sleep, according to the CDC, include:

  • Keep a regular sleep schedule.
  • Avoid stimulating activities for two hours before bedtime.
  • Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol in the evening.
  • Sleep in a dark, quiet, well-ventilated room.
  • Avoid going to bed hungry.

In addition, sleep medications can be helpful, the CDC says.

More information

For more information on sleep, visit the U.S. National Center on Sleep Disorders Research.

SOURCES: Bruce Nolan, M.D., director, sleep center, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine; Oct. 30, 2009, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report

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