More American adults today are getting less sleep than they were a decade ago, according to new research.
The team used sleep-related data collected between 2010 and 2018 by the US National Health Interview Survey, a database consisting of information by the US Census Bureau to track health status, health care access, and progress toward achieving national objectives. Specifically, researchers analyzed the length of time people slept.
They found that people who sleep less than seven hours a night increased from 30.9 to 35.6 percent, though just how much varied based on a person’s demographic or employment status. Those who get the least amount of sleep are people who work in the protective service and military, health care support occupations, transport and material moving, and production occupation categories (in that order). However, even when adjusting for such variables, the researchers found that workers were more than 20 percent more likely on average to get less sleep in 2018 than they had in 2010.
Shorter sleep duration is “detrimental to physical and mental health,” note the authors. Getting less than the recommended 7 to 9 hours of sleep has been linked to injury, loss of productivity, premature mortality, and an increased risk of certain diseases like type-2 diabetes, stroke, hypertension, and coronary heart disease. Unfortunately, studies have shown that playing catch-up on sleep over the weekend won’t reverse the effects of sleep deprivation, although a good night’s sleep does help the brain fix damaged DNA.
The researchers say that sleep hygiene education is useful to help people achieve more sleep.
“Employers that are willing to help employees develop adequate sleep times may increase the probability of workplace productivity, reduction in employee health care costs, and improving workplace safety and health,” wrote the authors in the Journal of Community Health. “Sleep hygiene education may be one method to help employees optimize their levels of sleep and reduce a significant form of preventable harm.”
Some tips for achieving a regular sleep pattern include limiting daytime naps to 30 minutes, avoiding stimulates or disruptive foods near bedtime, exercising, getting adequate exposure to natural light, establishing a relaxing bedtime routine sans screens, and making sure the sleep environment is pleasant, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Those who do not practice proper sleep hygiene may experience daytime sleepiness and frequent sleep disturbances, among other things.