Mercy Regional Health Center

Sleepy Americans

How well do you sleep?
How much sleep is needed?
Daytime functioning

How Well Do You Sleep?

How often does daytime sleepiness affect your activities of daily living? How often do you experience some form of sleep disorder? These are but a few of the questions the
National Sleep Foundation wanted to know.
The National Sleep Foundation, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to sleep and furthering sleep research, commissioned a survey to better understand the sleep habits, experiences, lifestyle and health issues among adults in the United States. Between October 25, 2000, and January 3, 2001, a survey was conducted with 1,004 adults. The results were very interesting.
On average, adults get 7 hours of sleep on weekdays and 45 to 50 minutes more on the weekend. Nearly one-third (31%) of adults get less than 7 hours, and as much as 31% got 6 hours or less sleep on weekdays.
Only slightly more than one-quarter (28%) of adults get the recommended 8 hours of sleep each night.


How Much Sleep Is Needed?
The amount of sleep an individual gets can affect work performance, daily activities, mood and outlook on life in general.
In the survey, nearly 40% of adults report experiencing sleepiness to such a degree that it interferes with their daily activities at least a few days a month. Moreover, more than 1 in 5, or 22%, experience this level of daytime sleepiness on a weekly basis.
Alarmingly, more than half (53%) of adults in the U.S. report driving while drowsy in the past year, and nearly 20% have actually dozed off while driving. One in 100 claims to have had an accident while driving because tiredness or dozing off. Many catastrophic events have been attributed to falling asleep or inattentiveness due to sleepiness, including the Chernobyl nuclear disaster and the Exxon Valdez accident. This doesn't include the less publicized, but equally as devastating, motor vehicle accidents attributed to falling asleep while driving that claim the lives of thousands of people each year.


Daytime Functioning
How you function during the daytime is directly linked to how tired you are, and daytime sleepiness is directly related to how much sleep you get. So what is keeping adults from sleeping?
Nearly 50% of adults report experiencing one or more symptoms of insomnia at least a few nights a week in the past year. These symptoms include waking up feeling unrefreshed (34%) and being awake a lot during the night (32%). Having difficulty falling asleep and waking up too early are less common, but are still experienced at least a few nights a week by 23% of adults.
Nearly 1 in 10 adults (9%) report experiencing pauses in breathing (sleep apnea) at least a few nights a week in the past year. These episodes generally result in sleep fragmentation and subsequent daytime sleepiness.
Restless leg syndrome (RLS) — a "creepy crawling" feeling, tingling or other type of leg discomfort that requires movement of the limb to relieve the sensation — was reported by 13% of adults in the survey. This condition leads to difficulty initiating sleep, potentially reducing the total number of hours of sleep one gets.


Americans continue to get less sleep than is recommended for good health, safety and quality of life, especially during the work week. The only way to decrease the number of sleepy Americans is by creating awareness, and then by taking appropriate action to make the necessary lifestyle changes.