Shining a nightlight on sleep habits

By Michelle Anderson • Published: August 31st, 2010
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

An annual national survey of Americans’ sleep habits shows we’re sleeping an average of nearly two hours less each night than people did 40 years ago.

And it’s taking its toll on our health.

More than three quarters of the more than a thousand survey respondents acknowledged that a lack of sleep can have serious health ramifications.

But skip it we do: A quarter of those surveyed saying they had missed work or social engagements because they were tired.

This year, the survey, which has been conducted for the National Sleep Foundation since 1991, shined a nightlight on sleep habits among various demographic groups, including blacks, whites, Hispanics and Asians.

Here are some differences the survey picked up on:

Whites are more likely to use over-the-counter sleep aids, while blacks are more likely to use prescription pills to get to sleep.

Only nine percent of Asians report never or rarely getting a good night’s sleep, although 20 percent of whites, 18 percent of blacks and 14 percent of Hispanics said that was true for them.

Blacks reported sleeping 38 minutes less a night than whites and 34 minutes less than Asians.

Fewer Asians watch TV before going to bed each night than whites, blacks or Hispanics, but were most likely to report using the internet every night.

The survey found that more than 70 percent of blacks reported activity before sleep, such as praying or watching TV – the highest of all the groups.

Whatever the differences, some factors – like TV and the recession – disrupt sleep for all of us.

To offset the worry factor, experts suggest you build a “wind down” period after TV and before sleep to help smooth the transition from stressful day to peaceful slumber.