Lack of Sleep Health ProblemsLack of sleep is leaving Americans with deteriorating productivity, and dangerous driving practices.

According to the 2005 Sleep in America poll by the National Sleep Foundation, only half the country sleeping well almost every night. The other half is split between those getting “a good night’s sleep” a few nights each week and those resting well a few nights a month or less.

“This is very much in line with what I’m seeing in my practice. People in the U.S. don’t make sleep a priority,” said Dr. Stasia J. Wieber, director of the Comprehensive Center for Sleep Medicine at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. “It really is a very important aspect of one’s health care and public health. It affects your personal health and also can put others in jeopardy.”

The poll of 1,500 adults was released as part of the sleep foundation’s Eighth Annual National Sleep Awareness Week campaign.

Lack of sleep is on the rise but too often ignored, the poll found. Although half of those surveyed reported a sleep problem such as waking up during the night and 24 percent said the problems affected their daily activities, 75 percent of the respondents didn’t characterize their symptoms as a lack of sleep.

On average, Americans sleep 6.9 hours a night, just below the recommended seven to nine hours. But more people today say they are sleeping less than six hours on weeknights (16 percent vs. 12 percent in 1998) and on weekends (10 percent vs. 8 percent in 1998).

More than one half (54 percent) of respondents said they had at least one symptom of insomnia a few nights a week or more. The most commonly cited symptoms were waking up feeling unrefreshed (38 percent) or waking during the night (32 percent).

Half of the survey respondents said they felt tired or “not up to par” during the day and 17 percent said they felt this way just about every day.

The repercussions of not having a good night’s sleep are numerous and can be serious, even life threatening. Sixty percent of adults licensed to drive said they had driven while drowsy over the past year, the highest rate since the poll was first conducted in 1999. Four percent said they had had an accident or near accident due to drowsiness while behind the wheel. If extrapolated to the rest of the population, this would mean that about 115 million people felt tired behind the wheel while more than 7 million drivers had an accident or near accident due to lack of sleep, the researchers said.

Almost one-third of working adults said they had missed work or made mistakes at work because of lack of sleep or sleep problems in the past three months.

The poll also found that poor health was often associated with poor sleep. Adults with at least one common medical condition, such as high blood pressure or arthritis, are less likely to sleep well and are about twice as likely to feel drowsy during the day.

In line with other studies, this poll found that nearly two-thirds of Americans (64 percent) are overweight or obese — and that this condition contributes to sleep problems. Compared to adults of normal weight, people who are obese are more likely to sleep less than six hours each weeknight (18 percent vs. 11 percent) and often feel sleepy during the day (37 percent vs. 26 percent).

Overweight and obese individuals were also nearly six times as likely to suffer from sleep apnea than normal-weight individuals. According to the report, more than a quarter (26 percent) of respondents were at risk for sleep apnea, a condition marked by disruptions in breathing while a person is asleep. The condition is associated with high blood pressure and stroke.

“People need to make sleep a priority,” Wieber said. – 2005 Sleep in America Poll, National Sleep Foundation, Washington, D.C.; Stasia J. Wieber, M.D., director, Comprehensive Center for Sleep Medicine, Mount Sinai Medical Center, New York City

Dr. Keith & Laurie Nemec Comments on Lack of Sleep Causes Health Problems:

Sleep is one of the most important basic steps taken that keep one healthy and whole. You can go three minutes without oxygen, then you will die. You can only go two days without sleep, then you will pass out. You can go only five days without water and you can go thirty plus days without food. So in the big scheme of life and health, sleeping is close to the top. How much sleep should you get? Ideally for health and healing a person is in bed by 8:30 p.m. and wakes up at 6 a.m. This is 9.5 hours of sleep which has tremendous affects on balancing the body. 9.5 hours of sleep with at least 3.5 hours before midnight causes:

1. The hormonal system to balance

2. The immune system to balance

3. The blood sugar to begin to balance

Basically, to not get this needed sleep makes you fat, diabetic, cancer prone, anxious and depressed.