As if the nation needed another deficit, it has one when it comes to getting enough sleep. In a study issued last month by the National Sleep Foundation, just 28 percent of adults reported getting at least eight hours of shuteye per night, down from 38 percent saying so in 2001. And the proportion saying they average less than six hours per night has risen from 13 percent then to 20 percent now.
Moreover, 41 percent said they endure "sleep problems" every night or almost every night. Fewer than half (49 percent) said they get a good night's sleep every night or almost every night. Twenty-six percent said they do so a few nights a week, 8 percent a few nights a month, 12 percent rarely and 4 percent never. (The total doesn't equal 100 percent due to rounding.)
In polling for the report (fielded in September and October), respondents reported getting an average of six hours and 40 minutes of sleep on weeknights/worknights and seven hours and seven minutes on weekends. Twelve percent get two or more hours less sleep on weeknights than on weekends. On average, it takes the respondents 22 minutes to fall asleep once they've gone to bed.
Among the three in 10 respondents who conceded they don't get as much sleep as they need, many said this leaves them too drowsy to exercise (32 percent), engage in leisure activities (31 percent), work well and efficiently (27 percent), eat healthily (20 percent) or have sex (19 percent). Eleven percent said they're at least somewhat likely to use an over-the-counter or prescription medication "to help get them through the day."
The study also looked at methods people adopt to help themselves sleep. Fifteen percent use "relaxation techniques." Eight percent take a sleep medication prescribed by a doctor, while 7 percent use over-the-counter sleep aids. Another 7 percent prescribe a stiff drink for themselves, which gives them the opportunity to lie awake wondering whether the experts are right about the unwisdom of consuming alcohol soon before bedtime.