Feedback
Health

A Third of Americans Aren't Getting Enough Sleep

More than a third of Americans say they're are not getting enough sleep, putting themselves at risk of obesity, heart disease and other issues, federal researchers said Thursday.

The findings also suggest that more Americans need to learn healthy sleep habits — like going to bed at regular times and turning off televisions and other electronic devices, the team at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

Image: sleepy students
According to CDC, most US middle and high schoolers are starting school way too early in the morning. J.M. Guyon / AP

"As a nation we are not getting enough sleep," said Dr. Wayne Giles, director of CDC's Division of Population Health.

"Lifestyle changes such as going to bed at the same time each night; rising at the same time each morning; and turning off or removing televisions, computers, mobile devices from the bedroom, can help people get the healthy sleep they need."

CDC experts looked at health surveys covering more than 400,000 Americans. They were asked how many hours of sleep they get each night, among other questions.

On average, only 65 percent said they get seven hours or more of sleep a night, the team reported.

"Sleeping less than seven hours per night is associated with increased risk for obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, stroke, frequent mental distress, and all-cause mortality," the team wrote in the CDC's weekly report.

People in Hawaii are the most likely to burn the candle at both ends, with just 56 percent of residents reporting an average of seven hours a night or more. South Dakotans have the best sleep record: 72 percent of people there said they sleep plenty.

And only about half of blacks report they get enough sleep, compared to two-thirds of whites and Hispanics.

Sleep may also be tied to economic conditions.

People in the Southeast and Appalachian regions reported the least sleep, on average. "Previous studies have shown that these regions also have the highest prevalence of obesity and other chronic conditions," the CDC team wrote.

"People who reported they were unable to work or were unemployed had lower healthy sleep duration (51 percent and 60 percent, respectively) than did employed respondents (65 percent). The prevalence of healthy sleep duration was highest among people with a college degree or higher (72 percent)."

Doctors need to ask about sleep, the CDC suggested.

"Employers can consider adjusting work schedules to allow their workers time to get enough sleep," CDC said. "Employers can also educate their shift workers about how to improve their sleep."

The artificial lights in computer and television screens are a well documented cause of insomnia. And the CDC says that there's no real proven sleep aid, even though nearly 9 million Americans say they take sleeping pills.