- WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - Americans are "woefully ignorant" about
how much sleep they need and are walking -- and driving -- around sleepy
as a consequence, experts said on Wednesday.
- Most Americans -- 64 percent -- sleep
less than the recommended eight hours, and 32 percent sleep six hours or
less, the National Sleep Foundation, which sponsored a nationwide survey
on sleeping habits and knowledge, said.
- "Most Americans get too little sleep
even though 98 percent of them agree that sleep is as important to their
health as nutrition and exercise, and 83 percent agree that one can be
successful and still get enough sleep," it said.
- Yet more than a third surveyed said they
were sleepy during the day and 30 percent said it interfered with their
- "The brain does not rest during
sleep -- there are parts of the brain that are more active during sleep,"
Thomas Roth, who heads sleep research at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit
and advises the Foundation, told a news conference.
- "Sleep and rest are not interchangeable."
- The group's main concern was that people
were driving whilesleepy. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)
estimates that 100,000 crashes, causing 1,500 deaths and 71,000 injuries,
are caused by drowsy drivers every year.
- "A lot of people in the United States
drive sleepy and a lot of sleepy drivers cause accidents," Roth said.
- Most Americans do not realize they cannot
force themselves awake if they are really sleepy, the survey found. "Raising
the volume of the radio will not keep you awake. Opening the window will
not keep you awake," Roth said.
- Why are Americans so tired? "Fifty-one
percent of men and 42 percent of women would go to sleep earlier if they
didn't have a television or access to the Internet," the Foundation
- "There are so many channels -- it's
hard to get to sleep on time," Roth joked.
- People also attached a moral value to
sleeping less. "We do tend to idolize people who have short sleep
and I think that's an unfortunate situation," Roth said.
- "I think it's a prejudice in society
-- people will say (British wartime leader Winston) Churchill slept five
hours a night ... no one says Albert Einstein slept 10 hours a night, and
he did." Churchill also took frequent naps, Roth noted.
- Shift workers were especially sleepy,
the survey found. "It's a consequence of how we run our society,"
- Many people suffered sleep problems that
they ignored or tried to live with, the survey found.
- "Snoring can disrupt sleep even
without waking the snorer and can be a sign of sleep apnea. However, only
50 percent of adults realize the potential harm to sleep quality, health
and safety that snoring may signify," the Foundation said.
- More than 40 percent of adults, and 50
percent of men, said they snored a few nights a week or more. Three percent
have been diagnosed with sleep apnea, in which the airway is blocked during
sleep, waking the sufferer several times in a night.
- "For every person with a snoring
problem you have someone else who is sleep-deprived," pointed out
Dr. William Dement, one of the first sleep researchers in the United States
and a member of the Foundation's board.
- The telephone survey of more than 1,000
adults, accurate to within three percentage points, found most of the sleepy
people were in their late teens and 20s. "The image of an older individual
dozing on the porch is not a correct image," Dement said.
- "Eighteen to 25-year-olds think
they can get by with four to five hours of sleep because (former British
prime minister) Margaret Thatcher can and they are twice the man she is,"
- Dement said most primary care doctors
did not ask people about sleep habits and failed to diagnose sleep problems.