Sleepy Americans Put Health at Risk

Research Shows One-Third of U.S. Adults Aren’t Getting Enough Sleep

From the WebMD Archives


Sleep Varies by Age

Older people apparently get more sleep, the study also indicates. Only 25% of people 65 and over said they slept less than seven hours in a day. In contrast, 31% of people 18 to 24 reported sleeping less than seven hours in a 24-hour period.

Sleep time also seems affected by educational level, ethnicity, race, and employment status, the statistics suggest. For example:

  • 48.3% of African-Americans got less than seven hours of sleep, compared to 34.9% of whites and 33% of Hispanics.
  • 37.4% of employed adults got less than seven hours of sleep, compared to 35.1%% of unemployed people.
  • 39.1% of people who said they were divorced, widowed, or separated got less than seven hours, compared to 35.1% of married folks.

Findings varied widely among the 12 states studied. For instance, 27.6% of people in Minnesota reported getting less than seven hours of sleep compared to 44% in Hawaii.

Impact of Shortened Sleep on Daily Activities

The second study, based on a different set of data, examined correlations between hours of sleep and six sleep-related issues: concentrating, remembering, working on a hobby, driving or taking public transportation, taking care of finances, and working.

Trouble concentrating apparently is the biggest problem for those adults getting less than seven hours of sleep. Specifically, 19.4% of people who slept seven to nine hours a day reported trouble concentrating, but 29.3% of those sleeping less than seven had concentration problems.

Among other findings:

  • 28.2% had trouble concentrating because they were sleepy or tired.
  • 18.2% had trouble remembering things.
  • 10.5% had trouble taking care of their financial affairs due to lack of sleep.
  • Young people are more likely than those 60 and older to report having problems in all six sleep-related areas.

The researchers conclude that the perceived difficulty of performing routine daily tasks may be as much as 50% greater among adults who sleep less than seven hours.

WebMD Health News Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD on March 03, 2011



Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, March 4, 2011.

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