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CDC: Sleep Deprivation a ‘Public Health Problem’

February 29, 2008

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported Thursday that Americans are getting far less sleep than they should.  Ten percent reported they did not get enough sleep or rest every single day of the prior month, and 38 percent said they did not get enough in seven or more days in the prior month.

The report, based on a four-state study of 19,589 adults, said that chronic sleep deprivation an under-recognized public health problem, and is linked to obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, depression, as well as certain risk factors such as smoking, physical inactivity and heavy drinking.

The data from the four states”“Delaware, Hawaii, New York, and Rhode Island”“may not reflect national trends. But an additional study conducted by CDC utilizing data from the National Health Interview Study indicated that across all age groups the percentage of adults who, on average, report sleeping six hours or less has increased from 1985 to 2006.

“It’s important to better understand how sleep impacts people’s overall health and the need to take steps to improve the sufficiency of their sleep,” said Lela R. McKnight-Eily, Ph.D., the study’s lead author and a behavioral scientist in CDC’s Division of Adult and Community Health, in a CDC press release about the report.

“There are very few studies to assess and address sleep insufficiencies; therefore, more needs to done to better understand the problem and to develop effective sleep interventions,” she said.

The study analyzed data from CDC”²s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) survey. Among the four states, the percentage of adults who reported not getting enough rest or sleep every day in the past 30 days ranged from 14 percent in Delaware to 8 percent in Hawaii.

People concerned about chronic sleep loss should consult a physician for an assessment and possible treatment, such as behavioral or medical interventions, McKnight-Eily said. They can also try setting a regular sleep schedule and avoiding caffeine or other stimulants before bed.

Variation for insufficient rest and sleep may be due to occupational or lifestyle factors. The causes of sleep loss could include busy schedules or shift work, irregular sleep schedules, or lifestyle factors such as heavy family demands, late”“night television watching, Internet use or the consumption of caffeine and alcohol, according to a 2006 Institute of Medicine report. 

The National Sleep Foundation reports that most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep each night to feel fully rested while school children aged 5-12 years require 9-11 hours, and adolescents aged 11-17 years require 8.5″“9.5 hours each night.

The CDC study also found that the prevalence of insufficient sleep decreased with age. An estimated 13.3 percent of adults aged 18-34 reported insufficient rest or sleep everyday in the past month compared to only 7.3 percent of adults aged 55 and older.

While some studies have found sleep disturbance more prevalent among older adults, results from this study are consistent with other research that supports the idea that older adults (who are more likely to be retired) make fewer complaints regarding impaired sleep and adapt their perception of what encompasses sufficient sleep.

In addition, the study showed that only 29.6 percent of adults said they did get enough rest or sleep every day in the past month.

The full CDC report “Perceived Insufficient Rest or Sleep — Four States, 2006 “, can be viewed at http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5708a2.htm.

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