The State of SleepHealth in America

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Good sleep promotes good health. Sleep represents a third of every person’s life and it has a tremendous impact on how we live, function and perform during the other two-thirds of our lives. It is indeed as vital as the air we breathe and the food we eat, especially for those with chronic diseases or compromised immune systems.

Sleep problems, whether in the form of medical disorders or related to work schedules and a 24/7 lifestyle, are pervasive. In America, 70% of adults report that they obtain insufficient sleep at least one night a month, and 11% report insufficient sleep every night.1

It is estimated that sleep-related problems affect 50 to 70 million Americans of all ages and socioeconomic classes. Sleep disorders are common in both men and women; however, important disparities in prevalence and severity of certain sleep disorders have been identified in minorities and underserved populations.2

Additionally, people are chronically sleep deprived as a result of demanding lifestyles and a lack of education about the impact of sleep loss. Sleepiness affects vigilance, reaction times, learning abilities, alertness, mood, hand-eye coordination, and the accuracy of short-term memory. Sleepiness has been identified as the cause of a growing number of on-the-job accidents, automobile crashes and multi-model transportation tragedies.

The odds of being sleep deprived (less than 6 hours a night for adults) has increased significantly over the past 30 years as the lines between work and home have become blurred and digital technology has firmly become part of our lifestyles. National data shows that poor sleep health is a common problem with 25 percent of U.S. adults reporting insufficient sleep or rest at least 15 out of every 30 days.3 The National Institutes of Health predicts that America’s sleep debt is on the rise and that by the middle of the 21st century more than 100 million Americans will have difficulty falling asleep.

More than 50 million Americans already suffer from over 80 different sleep disorders and another 20 to 30 million suffer intermittent sleep problems each year. At least 25 million Americans (1 in 5 adults) suffer from sleep apnea, a serious sleep and breathing condition linked to hypertension, cognitive impairment, heart disease and stroke. Chronic insomnia affects at least 10 percent of Americans. Restless legs syndrome, a neurological disorder, affects about 5 percent of the population over age 65. Sleep disorders affect members of every race, socioeconomic class and age group. Despite the high prevalence of sleep disorders, the overwhelming majority of sufferers remain undiagnosed and untreated, creating unnecessary public health and safety problems, as well as increased health care expenses. National surveys show that more than 60 percent of adults have never been asked about the quality of their sleep by a physician, and fewer than 20 percent – have ever initiated such a discussion.4

Drowsy driving

A third of Americans report falling asleep while driving 1 to 2 times per month and 26% drive drowsy during the workday.7

Drowsy driving may be a factor in 20% of all serious motor vehicle crash injuries.5 A large naturalistic study of 100 drivers and nearly 2 million miles of driving identified sleepiness as factor in 22% of crashes, and 16% of near crashes.6

The impact on American life and economy is enormous as sleep deprivation and untreated sleep disorders are estimated to cost over $100 billion annually in lost productivity, medical expenses, sick leave, property, and environmental damage.8

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1Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Perceived Insufficient Rest or Sleep Among Adults—United States, 2008. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 58:1179
2National Institutes of Health. National Institutes of Health Sleep Disorders Research Plan.
Last accessed August 5, 2015
http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/prof/sleep/201101011NationalSleepDisordersResearchPlanDHHSPublication11-7820.pdf.
3Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Perceived Insufficient Rest or Sleep Among Adults—United States, 2008. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 58:1179.
4Institute of Medicine. Sleep disorders and sleep deprivation: An unmet public health problem. Colten HR, Alteveogt BM, editors. ISBN:0-309-66012-2, 1–500. 2006. Washington, D.C., National Academies Press.
5Ibid
6Klauer SG, Dingus TA, Neale VL, Sudweeks JD, Ramsey DJ. The impact of driver inattention on near-crash/crash risk: an analysis using the 100-car naturalistic driving study data. HS810594, 1-192. 2006. Washington, D.C., National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
7Dingus TA, Klauer SG, Neale VL, Petersen A, Lee SE, Sudweeks J, Perez MA, Hankey J, Ramsey D, Gupta S, Bucher C, Doerzaph ZR, Jermeland J, Knipling RR. The 100-car naturalistic driving study; Phase II–Results of the 100-car field experiment. DOT HS 810 593, 1-352. 2006. Washington, D.C., National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
8Institute of Medicine. Sleep disorders and sleep deprivation: An unmet public health problem. Colten HR, Alteveogt BM, editors. ISBN:0-309-66012-2, 1–500. 2006. Washington, D.C., National Academies Press.
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