Seven In 24
How much sleep is enough for American adults? After a long and difficult debate, the American Sleep Disorders Association finally agreed on a number last year. Their answer – seven hours or more in 24, including naps, will make the cut. So how do Americans stack up?
Not too well.
In a report that appeared recently in the Center for Disease Control’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, nearly 445,000 randomly selected adult Americans were surveyed through both landline and cellphone. Of the group, 65.2% reported they slept seven hours or more. Fully 11.8% said they were obtaining less than five hours sleep , and 23% six hours or less each 24 hour period. Donald Trump happily claims three or four hours a night, which curiously some blame both for his politics and the fervency of his support.
Where Do They Sleep Least?
Given the huge size of this data set, the variation is large. The great non-sleeping area of the nation is the Southeast, coinciding with its long established role as the “stroke belt” and the region with the nation’s greatest incidence of obesity. Yet among states, Hawaii was least sleep friendly at 56.1% obtaining seven or more hours. The “best” sleeping state turns out to be South Dakota, a whopping 71.6%. Not a huge surprise – the area with the greatest concentration of “good” sleepers was the northern Midwest, where overall public health measures tend to do well. The Sunshine State of Florida was about average at 64.2%, higher than any state in the south outside North Carolina.
Who Sleeps the Least?
As one would surmise, different groups sleep very, very differently. The worst group for obtaining adequate sleep were the disabled – only 51% slept more than seven hours per 24. Amongst the unemployed, getting the suggested required sleep appeared at a relatively low 60.2%. Considering different ethnic groups, Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders, non-Hispanic blacks, and multiracial Hispanics were all around 54%. Non-Hispanic Whites came in at 66.8%, with Hispanics at 65.5%.
Who slept best? Married folks, with rates at 67.4% compared to divorced/separated at 55.7%, and college graduates, of whom 71.5% claimed to sleep more than seven hours total per 24 hours – a possible surprise to sleep evading undergraduates.
Why Do People Sleep Less?
The reasons for lesser amounts of sleep are legion. Clearly sleep disorders are part of the picture, with some estimates that 15-20% of the population suffers from frequent insomnia. People who weigh a lot sleep loss, even if they experience no sleep disorders. Though predominantly overweight sleep apnea sufferers are classically thought to sleep too much, the majority in fact suffer from insomnia. People working multiple jobs, parents with young kids, are also groups who obtain far less sleep. Certainly the quarter of the population that does shift work adds to sleepless numbers. Work, school, and parenting schedules are significant factors on a global scale.
Not to be left out is money. Though some political leaders may believe poor people have “greater sleep opportunity,” the truth is the opposite: the poor do not sleep well.
Who Sleeps Too Much?
Given studies that show people sleeping more than eight hours of sleep a night have higher mortality, the number of people sleeping nine hours or more is nationally a high 8% – with 3.6% sleeping ten hours or more. The CDC report is careful to separate out those who sleep longer because of illness as opposed to those who just sleep long. They authors point out that some studies in otherwise healthy people show them sleeping long with no apparent ill effects. Parsing out genetic factors versus clinical problems that have yet to become “diagnosable” makes this type of study really difficult.
Are There People Who Sleep Short or Long Hours Naturally?
Yes. Lots. There are many in the population who can sleep three or four hours – or less – and perform well, just as there are long sleepers who function very admirably. When it comes to total sleep times, genetics is powerful. Both amount of sleep and time of sleep differ greatly in the general population. Certainly there are “functional hypomanics” who are notably energetic and require little sleep – Donald Trump appears to place himself in that category. However, most sleep clinicians would argue that those who can healthily sleep less than five hours are perhaps 3-4% of the population – and in this survey 11.8% report themselves sleeping less than that.
Why Should We Care About Sleep Duration?
Because it’s a big factor in overall health. When it comes to human survival, we regenerate or we degenerate. When people sleep less than 6 hours – and we’ve got close to a quarter of the “healthy” US population claiming that – they are more prone to heart disease, stroke, obesity, diabetes, and depression. They have higher blood pressure. They die earlier. They got colds more often. They’re crankier. They’re more prone to poor moral decisions.
Sleep may be a little less than one third of life. It’s required for survival and health. And at least a third of the country does not appear to get enough of it.