WASHINGTON - With late-night TV watching, Internet surfing, and other distractions, Americans are getting less and less sleep, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said yesterday.
And all this sleeplessness can be a nightmare for your mental and physical health, CDC specialists cautioned, calling sleep loss an underrecognized public health problem.
Sleep specialists say chronic sleep loss is associated with obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, cardiovascular disease, depression, cigarette smoking, and excessive drinking.
The CDC surveyed 19,589 adults in four states. Ten percent reported they did not get enough sleep or rest every single day of the prior month, and 38 percent said they did not get enough in seven or more days in the prior month.
The CDC survey, conducted in New York, Hawaii, Delaware, and Rhode Island, asked people how many days in the prior month they got insufficient rest or sleep, without asking specifically how many hours they slept.
But the CDC released nationwide data collected separately showing that across all age groups, the percentage of adults reporting sleeping six hours or fewer a night increased from 1985 to 2006.
"At night, we're doing everything except for sleeping - we're on the Internet, we may be watching TV. With these new lifestyles we have kind of taken sleep for granted as something that we can do when we have time or we can catch up on it on the weekends," Lela McKnight-Eily, a CDC behavioral scientist who led the study, said in a telephone interview.
"We don't realize that sleep is a vital part of overall health and that chronic sleep loss is related to both physical and mental health issues," she added. "It's getting worse."
Darrel Drobnich, chief executive officer of the National Sleep Foundation, added that several thousand people die on US roads yearly in accidents involving drowsy drivers.
The CDC said 50 to 70 million Americans suffer from chronic sleep loss and sleep disorders in a country of 300 million.
McKnight-Eily urged people who often get too little sleep to see a doctor to determine whether they have a sleeping disorder.