A new report revealed the unhealthy sleeping habits of Americans: 65% the country’s population sleeps 7 hours or more, and even less get the recommended 8 hours. The state-by-state variation was also significant.

Credits: Liu Y, Wheaton AG, Chapman DP, Cunningham TJ, Lu H, Croft JB, 2016.

We spend about a third of our human lives sleeping, and yet there’s still so much we don’t know about sleep. However, we do know one thing clearly: sleep is vital for a healthy life. Short sleep duration (<7 hours per night) is associated with a great deal of problems, including obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, frequent mental distress, and death. That a third of all Americans aren’t getting nearly enough sleep is extremely worrying.

“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.”

The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report, which polled 444,306 Americans, found major differences from state to state. The “sleepless” state seems to be Hawaii, where only 56 percent of all people get enough sleep. By contrast, in Colorado, South Dakota and Minnesota at least 70% of the population is getting 7 hours or more of sleep on average.

“Geographic clustering of the lowest prevalence of healthy sleep duration was observed in the southeastern United States and in states along the Appalachian Mountains, and the highest prevalence was observed in the Great Plains states. Previous studies have shown that these regions also have the highest prevalence of obesity and other chronic conditions,” the CDC team wrote. It seems plausible to suppose that there is a connection between the two.

People in crowded cities also tend to get less sleep. Image via Pexels.

The study also found connections between sleep patterns and education level, marital status, and race. People with a college degree a higher tended to have a higher percentage of sleeping 7 hours (71.5 percent) and 67.4 percent of married respondents said they were getting 7 hours or more, compared to divorced, widowed, or separated respondents (55.7 percent), and single respondents (62.3 percent). Another interesting and unexpected find was that white people are getting more sleep than any other race in the US.

“When the responses were broken down by race, they found that non-Hispanic whites had the highest rate of healthy sleep duration, at 66.8 percent. Close to 66 percent of Hispanics got 7-plus hours, as did 62.5 percent of Asians and 59.6 percent of Native Americans. Black people were at 54.2 percent, and multiracial people were at the bottom, with 53.6 percent.”

Why this happens and what it means from a social point of view is beyond the scope of this study, but there are some reasonable assumptions which can be made. Basically, the more fortunate you are in life, the sounder you will sleep. Also people living in big, crowded cities tend to get less shut eye.

“What is likely going on is probably explained by demographic composition. Densely populated neighbourhoods might have more noise and light. African-Americans compared to whites are more likely to live in those neighbourhoods,” Lauren Hale, a family and preventative medicine professor at Stony Brook University, who was not involved in the study, told NPR.

“There are concerns about racism, not being able to feed one’s family, relatives being incarcerated,” she added. “One needs to feel safe. If you don’t have that internal feeling of security whether financial, physical, or emotional, it will be harder to fall asleep.”

The main takeaway remains though, 1 in 3 Americans are not getting enough sleep, and this is highly detrimental for their health. Read all the results here.


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