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.
How Well Do You Sleep?
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 a National Sleep Foundation 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.
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.
Nearly 1 in 10 adults report experiencing pauses in breathing (sleep apnea) at least a few nights a week in the past year.
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.
Tips for Getting a Good Night's Sleep
Daytime performance depends on adequate, restorative sleep the night before. How can you improve your chances of obtaining adequate sleep? The answer is proper sleep hygiene.
Here are some tips to better sleep hygiene and, therefore, better sleep:
- Observe a regular bedtime and awakening time
- Establish a bedtime ritual, such as reading or listening to calming music
- Reduce or eliminate caffeine and nicotine intake
- Exercise at least 30 minutes a day, 3-4 hours before bedtime
- Create a sleep-friendly environment — quiet, dark, cool
- Use the bed and bedroom for intimacy and sleep only
- Take a warm bath before bed
- Do not take naps during the day
- Do not drink alcoholic beverages in the evening
Sleep hygiene, much like personal hygiene, is an individual issue. No one can do these things for you. But if you do take the time to follow these nine simple tips you will be on your way to better, more restful sleep.