Sleep problems are linked to mental disorders, road accidents, chronic illnesses, health-risk behaviors and poorer daily functioning, says the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). The CDC believes there are between fifty and seventy million individuals in the USA with long-term (chronic) sleep and wakefulness disorders.

Most adults require between 7 to 9 hours continuous sleep each night, says the National Sleep Foundation. However, some people may need more than others.

The CDC examined data from a sleep module that was added to the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Systems in 2009 to try to determine how common sleep difficulties are.

Of the 74,571 adult individuals in twelve different states:

  • 35.3% were found to be sleeping an average of less than 7 hours each day
  • 48% snored
  • 37.9% said they fell asleep unintentionally at least once during the previous thirty days
  • 4.7% said they fell asleep or nodded of while at the wheel of a vehicle during the previous thirty days
  • 24.5% of those aged at least sixty-five years reported sleeping less than 7 hours each night, much less that the other age groups
  • 48.3% of non-Hispanic African-Americans were found to sleep less than 7 hours each night
  • 38.7% of non-Hispanic individuals of other races reported sleeping less than seven hours each night
  • 34.9% of non-Hispanic Caucasians slept less than seven hours each night
  • There was no significant difference in the percentage of males compared to females sleeping less than 7 hours each night
  • 37.4% of adults with jobs slept less than 7 hours compared to 46.4% of those unable to work

In order to fully understand how sleep difficulties might affect health and how to address these problems, continued public surveillance of sleep duration, behaviors, quality and disorders is required.

Appropriate healthcare professionals need proper training in sleep medicine – this could improve with a multifaceted approach, including training and enhanced public awareness. The CDC adds that technology use and work policies, as well as some other societal facts should be considered.

The survey, which involved telephone calls, included the following questions:

    On average, how many hours of sleep do you get in a 24-hour period?
    Think about the time you actually spend sleeping or napping, not just the amount of sleep you think you should get (categorized as Do you snore??
    During the past 30 days, for about how many days did you find yourself unintentionally falling asleep during the day?
    During the past 30 days, have you ever nodded off or fallen asleep, even just for a brief moment, while driving?

“Unhealthy Sleep-Related Behaviors – 12 States, 2009”
Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR)
March 4, 2011 / 60(08);233-238

Written by Christian Nordqvist