Tired? You May Not Be Getting Enough Sleep

Reading time: 4 – 6 minutes

A good night’s sleep is increasingly loosing out to late night television, the Internet, video games and other modern day distractions, and our health is taking the toll. An estimated 50 to 70 million people suffer from chronic sleep loss and sleep disorders, and loss of sleep is associated with a variety of health problems, including obesity and depression [1]. According to a recent four state study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 70% of adults report not getting enough rest or sleep at least once over the past month; 10% report insufficient rest or sleep every day [2].

asleep-at-desk.jpgThe CDC analyzed 2006 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) data from four states, Delaware, Hawaii, New York and Rhode Island. The study, one of the first to present state-level information on any sleep-related measure, found that the prevalence of insufficient sleep was greater in young adults. Of those ages 18 — 34, 13.3% reported insufficient rest or sleep every day over the past month. Of those aged of 35 — 54, only 10% reported insufficient rest or sleep every day over the past month. The percentage was smallest (7.3%) for those aged ≥ 55 years. Similar trends were observed for shorter periods of time. Interestingly however, for people reporting only 1 — 6 days of insufficient rest or sleep during the preceding 30 days, young adults had the lowest percentage (27.8%), while adults aged 35 — 44 had the highest percentage (38.2%), followed by adults aged 45 — 54 (36%) and people aged ≥ 55 years (31.7%).

Persons unable to work were significantly more likely to report insufficient rest or sleep everyday than people employed, students or homemakers, people unemployed or people retired. With increasing education, respondents were less likely to report no days of insufficient rest or sleep.

The study is subject to a number of limitations. Chief among them is that it uses the results of a survey. The principle limitations of a survey are the validity and reliability of responses. Poor recall, intentional deception and misunderstanding can all contribute to inaccuracies in the data. The survey method is also descriptive and cannot offer insights into cause-and-effect relationships. Lastly, the data only reflects sleep trends in four states and may not be representative of the entire United States. Nevertheless, it is consistent with another CDC study using data from the National Health Interview Study, which found that the percentage of adults at all ages reporting six hours or less of sleep per night increased from 1985 to 2006 [3].

According to the National Sleep Foundation, most healthy adults require 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night [4]. Children and adolescents need even more sleep than adults. Children aged 3 — 5 years require 11 to 13 hours of sleep each night, children aged 5 — 12 require 9 to 11 hours and adolescents require 8.5 to 9.5 hours [4].

Here’s some tips to get a good night’s sleep:

  • Keep your room quiet and dark
  • Make sure your bed is comfortable
  • Avoid or limit caffeine and alcohol consumption
  • Don’t smoke
  • Eat dinner at least 2 — 3 hours before bedtime
  • Relax prior to bedtime
  • Don’t exercise right before bedtime
  • Establish regular bedtime and waketime schedule

Additional information on sleep and sleep disorders can be found at The National Sleep Foundation, Sleep Education.com and The Insomnia blog.

The results of this study should come as no surprise, especially to many of you who are undoubtedly reading this late in the evening. How about you? Do you get enough sleep every night?


  1. Institute of Medicine. Sleep disorders and sleep deprivation: an unmet public health problem. By the Committee on Sleep Medicine and Research. Edited by Harvey R. Colten and Bruce M. Altevogt. 404 pp. Washington, DC, National Academies Press, 2006.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Perceived insufficient rest or sleep–four states, 2006. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2008 Feb 29;57(8):200-3.
    View abstract
  3. QuickStats: Percentage of Adults Aged >18 Years Who Reported an Average of <6 Hours of Sleep per 24-Hour Period, by Sex and Age Group — National Health Interview Survey, United States, 1985 and 2006. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2008 Feb 29;57(8):209.
  4. How Much Sleep is Enough? National Sleep Foundation. Accessed 2008 May 6.
About the Author

Walter Jessen, Ph.D. is a Data Scientist, Digital Biologist, and Knowledge Engineer. His primary focus is to build and support expert systems, including AI (artificial intelligence) and user-generated platforms, and to identify and develop methods to capture, organize, integrate, and make accessible company knowledge. His research interests include disease biology modeling and biomarker identification. He is also a Principal at Highlight Health Media, which publishes Highlight HEALTH, and lead writer at Highlight HEALTH.