One-Third Of Americans Lose Sleep Over Economy

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

One-third of Americans are losing sleep over the state of the U.S. economy and other personal financial concerns, according to a new poll released today by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) and Hoag Hospital Sleep Disorders Center, a program within Hoag Neurosciences Center of Excellence. The poll suggests that inadequate sleep leads to unhealthy lifestyles and negatively impacts health and safety.

NSF’s Sleep in AmericaTM poll reveals striking disparities in the sleep patterns, health habits and quality of life between healthy and unhealthy Americans. Those in good health are two-times more likely than those in poor health to work efficiently, exercise or eat healthy because they are getting enough sleep.

The number of people reporting sleep problems has increased 13% since 2001. In the past eight years, the number of Americans who sleep less than six hours a night jumped from 13% to 20%, and those who reported sleeping eight hours or more dropped from 38% to 28%.

“It’s easy to understand why so many people are concerned over the economy and jobs, but sacrificing sleep is the wrong solution,” says David Cloud, CEO of the National Sleep Foundation. “Sleep is essential for productivity and alertness and is a vital sign for one’s overall health.”


About 40% of Americans agree that sleep is as important as diet and exercise to overall health and well-being; yet, only 32% of Americans who report sleep problems discuss them with their doctor.

“Sleep is so obvious, that it is often overlooked, even by physicians,” says Paul Selecky, M.D., medical director of the nationally-accredited Hoag Sleep Disorders Center. “Sleep is as fundamental as diet and exercise to human health.”

Lack of sleep is creating a major public safety problem as well—drowsy driving. The 2009 poll finds that more than one-half of adults (54%) – potentially 110 million licensed drivers– have driven when drowsy at least once in the past year. Nearly one-third of drivers polled (28%) say that they have nodded off or fallen asleep while driving a vehicle.

Two out of every ten Americans sleep less than six hours a night. People sleeping too few hours report being too tired to work efficiently, to exercise or to eat healthy. Nearly 40% of these Americans sleeping too few hours have driven when drowsy at least once a month in the past year and nearly 90% report symptoms of insomnia at least a few nights a week in the past month. A study of middle-aged women who sleep five or fewer hours each night revealed that they weighed 2.5 kg more than those who sleep for at least seven hours - indicating that sleep duration can also have an effect on the development of obesity.

“With the economy worsening, we are concerned that patients will forego an evaluation of their sleep disorder because of the costs. While this is understandable, postponing the evaluation and treatment of a health problem such as sleep apnea or other sleep disorders only aggravates the problem,” says Dr. Selecky. “Some patients have elected not to be treated for sleep apnea because they felt they could not afford the co-pay for the equipment. These patients may wind up in a worse situation, as sleep disorders are often associated with other chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, heart failure and abnormal cardiac rhythms. This obviously adds complexity to the problem, and can even accelerate the disease process if untreated.”