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With the Economy Down, Sleeplessness Is Up

Poll finds one-third of Americans stay awake worrying about personal finances

MONDAY, March 2 (HealthDay News) -- Almost a third of all Americans are tossing and turning, unable to get a good night's sleep because they're worrying about the economy, their jobs or their money, a new poll finds.

Money woes far outweigh other problems, such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, global warming, or the threat of a terrorist attack, according to the annual poll by the National Sleep Foundation.

"What is very telling is that these Americans whose sleep is impacted by financial worries report that their sleep disturbance makes them much less likely to work efficiently, exercise, eat healthily, and have sex compared to their better-sleeping fellow Americans," said report co-author Michael V. Vitiello, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at University of Washington.

These sleep-disturbed Americans also report that they're more than twice as likely to miss participating in family events, leisure activities and work functions because of their sleepiness, Vitiello added.

According to the poll, 27 percent of those surveyed said they had disturbed sleep in the past month due to money issues -- including personal finances (16 percent), the U.S. economy (15 percent), or losing their job (10 percent).

Although people are getting better about recognizing the importance of sufficient sleep to their health and their ability to function, many are still experiencing disturbed sleep, leading to adverse effects on their health and daily functioning, Vitiello said.

"It is important for Americans to recognize that good sleep is not negotiable, rather it is a pillar of good health and function," he said. "As times get tougher, it actually becomes more important than ever to do what one can to maintain good sleep quality, as poor sleep has such an immediate impact on daily function and longer-term impact on physical health."

The number of Americans reporting sleep problems has increased 13 percent since 2001. Conversely, the number of people who report getting eight hours of sleep on a regular basis has decreased, from 38 percent in 2001 to 28 percent today. Also, only a third of all Americans who report sleep problems also report that they've discussed their sleep problems with their doctor, Vitiello said.

"Given the ongoing economic crisis and personal financial stresses many Americans are experiencing, the National Sleep Foundation encourages Americans to maintain or to develop good sleep, exercise and diet habits to stay healthy and productive, particularly in difficult times," Vitiello said. "Remember that good sleep is essential to good health and is not negotiable. If you think you have a sleep problem you should speak with your physician."

Dr. Bruce Nolan, medical director of the Sleep Center at the University of Miami's Miller School of Medicine, said sleep is sensitive to things that go on during the day.

"Things that go on during the day can disturb people's nights, and things that go on at night can disturb people during the day," Nolan said.

People should try to get seven hours or more sleep a night, Nolan said. If you have problems sleeping, you should seek medical help.

"Most sleep specialists feel if the problem be handled without sleeping medications, that's the first choice," he said. "If it cannot be handled without medication, then the choice is therapy and medication to address the issue that is disturbing the sleep."

The U.S. National Institutes of Health estimates that some 70 million Americans suffer from a chronic sleep disorder or intermittent sleep problem. Women experience the problems more often than men, and sleep difficulties increase with age.

Among other findings in the poll:

  • 46 percent said their sleep needs aren't being met.
  • 35 percent said they sleep less than six hours a night.
  • 41 percent said they have driven while sleepy.
  • Almost on-third said that lack of sleep affected their work.
  • One-third said lack of sleep caused emotional problems, such as anxiety and depression.
  • 89 percent reported insomnia, 33 percent reported restless leg syndrome, and 14 percent reported sleep apnea.

More information

For more on sleep, visit the National Sleep Foundation.

How to Get a Good Night's Sleep

If you have difficulty with your sleep for any reason, the National Sleep Foundation recommends:

  • Having a standard relaxing bedtime routine.
  • Having regular sleep times.
  • Keeping the bedroom dark, cool and quiet.
  • Being sure pillows, mattresses and bedding are comfortable.
  • Exercising regularly, but stopping at least three hours before bedtime.
  • Avoiding caffeinated beverages or alcohol at least eight hours before turning in.
  • Keeping work, computers and TVs out of the bedroom.

SOURCES: Michael V. Vitiello, Ph.D., professor, psychiatry and behavioral sciences, University of Washington, Seattle; Bruce Nolan, M.D., medical director, Sleep Center, Miller School of Medicine, University of Miami; March 2, 2009, 2009 Sleep In America Poll, National Sleep Foundation

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