For optimal health, experts recommend a minimum of seven hours of sleep each night for most people aged 18 or older. Getting less that that amount is associated with an increased risk of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, mental distress and premature death. Insufficient sleep also leaves people more susceptible to accidents and mental errors, both on the job and off.
The CDC study, which analyzed data collected from a 2014 survey of more than 444,000 adults from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, found that only 65.2 percent of respondents reported getting the recommended minimum amount of sleep.
That means that a significant number of American adults — an estimated 83.6 million — have a daily sleep deficit that may be putting their health at risk.
This finding suggests “an ongoing need for public awareness and public education about sleep health,” say the CDC researchers. It also underscores, they add, the need for society to develop better worksite shift policies to ensure that all workers are getting a healthful amount of sleep.
As the CDC has said elsewhere, “Getting sufficient sleep is not a luxury — it is a necessity — and should be thought of as a ‘vital sign’ of good health.”
Minnesota: among the best-rested
Here in Minnesota we seem to be doing somewhat better at getting our Zzzs — at least compared to people in many other states. Among the Minnesotans who responded to the CDC survey, 70.8 percent reported sleeping for at least seven hours on a typical night.
In fact, the Great Plains states had, overall, the highest percentages of well-rested adults of any region in the country, while the lowest percentages were primarily found in southeastern states and in those along the Appalachian Mountains.
Those low-sleep states also tend to be the same ones that have the highest prevalence of obesity, diabetes, and premature death from heart disease and stroke, the CDC researchers point out.
Here are some other key findings from the study:
- Nationally, whites and Hispanics reported sleeping more, on average, than blacks, Native Americans, Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders and people who identified themselves as multiracial.
- People who were employed, had a college education or were married tended to report getting more shut-eye than those who didn’t have a job, were less educated or currently unmarried.
- Compared with other age groups, people 65 years or older were the most likely (73.7 percent) to report getting at least seven hours of sleep. Only 61.7 percent of people aged 35 to 44, on the other hand, reported getting that much sleep.
Extending your sleep
If you want to improve how long you sleep each night, the CDC researchers recommend
- setting a pattern of going to bed at the same time each night and rising at the same time each morning;
- making sure that the bedroom environment is quiet, dark, relaxing, and neither too hot nor too cold;
- turning off or removing televisions, computers, mobile devices, and distracting or light-emitting electronic devices from the bedroom;
- and avoiding large meals, nicotine, alcohol, and caffeine before bedtime.
To identify possible habits that might be interfering with your sleep, the researchers also suggest keeping a 10-day “sleep diary.” This journal should include not just when and how long you slept during each 24-hour period, but also such sleep-affecting behaviors as exercise, alcohol use and caffeine consumption.
A sleep journal, the researchers add, is also helpful to have in hand when discussing any concerns about your sleep patterns with your doctor.
FMI: The study was published in the Feb. 19 issue of the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. For more information and tips about getting a healthful night’s sleep, try the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute‘s guide on the topic.