SLEEP IN AMERICA: 1995 GALLUP POLL
Updated February 12, 1999
The 1995 Gallup poll, conducted for the National Sleep Foundation, surveyed 1,027 adult men and women, 18 years of age or older.
| Sleeping difficulties | Knowledge and attitudes about sleep | Experiences of those with sleeping difficulties | All adults: sleeping behavior | discussion with healthcare professionals | Awareness and knowledge of treatments available to help promote sleep | Awareness and knowledge of treatments and methods used to help promote sleep |
Half have experienced sleeping difficulties, 12% on a frequent basis
Women and adults under age 55 more likely to report difficulty sleeping
- One in every two adults reports having had trouble sleeping at one time or another. though more than one-third say their sleeping difficulties only occur at certain times, 12% report they have difficulty sleeping on a frequent basis.
- Women are more likely than men to say they have sleeping difficulties (52% vs. 45%). With regard to age, adults under age 55 are more likely to say they have sleeping difficulties than those age 55 and over (51% vs. 42%).
A majority of adults who have frequent sleeping problems are concerned
- Level of concern about sleeping difficulties is highly correlated with the extent to which adults experience problems sleeping. Among those who say they experience difficulty sleeping only at certain times, 26% report they are concerned about this problem. In contrast, among adults who experience frequent difficulty in sleeping, 62% say they are concerned.
Adults with sleeping difficulties less likely to rate their physical health and other aspects of life as excellent
- Adults who have had trouble sleeping are less likely than others to rate their physical health as excellent. For example, 26% of all adults‹whether or not they had sleeping difficulties‹rate their physical health as excellent. However, among those who have frequent trouble sleeping, the percentage who report their physical health is excellent drops to 7%. Similar findings were noted when they rate their ability to accomplish the things they need to do during the day, and their general mood.
KNOWLEDGE AND ATTITUDES ABOUT SLEEP
Many have sleep knowledge, but misconceptions exist
- While there are some misconceptions, for the most part, a majority of American adults seem to have a good level of sleep knowledge. The vast majority of adults believe that not getting enough sleep can impair performance at work. A large majority dont think that most Americans get enough sleep. Approximately three in five (62%) understand that a short nap cannot make up for a lost night of sleep. Only one in eight (12%) believe that alcohol is a good sedative or that drinking coffee can help make up for loss of sleep. More than half (53%) know that exercising right before bedtime can interfere with sleep.
- However, a large majority (77%) incorrectly believe that boredom makes you feel sleepy, even if you have had enough sleep.
- It should be noted that four in ten adults report they have very often or sometimes dozed off when bored. As many (44%), say they have taken a nap during the day, and 17% report dozing off during daytime activities.
- Six in ten of all adults know that snoring can be a sign of a serious medical problem. More than half (58%) say they have been told that they snore. Among this group, 12% report they have been told that they have choked, gasped or stopped breathing for a little while during sleep, a strong sign of sleep apnea. Few (one in eight) who have this symptom report that they have been diagnosed with sleep apnea by a doctor. This may be a reflection of the fact that seven in ten adults who have difficulty sleeping have not discussed their sleep problems with a physician or other healthcare professional.
- Half (52%) of all adults surveyed say they have, in the past year, driven a car or other vehicle while feeling drowsy. Further, three in ten (31%) of adults admit that they have, at some time, dozed off while at the wheel of a car or other vehicle. Four percent of all adults report having had an automobile accident because they were too tired while driving.
EXPERIENCES OF THOSE WITH SLEEPING DIFFICULTIES
Length of sleep difficulties averages nine years
- Adults who reported they had experienced sleep difficulties were asked how long it had been since they last had trouble sleeping. The median number of days reported was six days, including 28% who said it had been only one day since they last experienced sleeping problems: half who have trouble sleeping frequently reported they last had trouble the evening before. As might be expected, those who have difficulty sleeping on a frequent basis are more likely than their counterparts who have trouble only at certain times to report a greater number of troubled nights‹16 nights vs. 5 nights per month.
- Asked how long they have experienced sleeping difficulties, the average reported among those with sleeping problems is nine years, though 15% say they have had difficulty sleeping for one year or less. The average length of time for which problems have been experienced is 11 years among those with frequent sleep difficulties vs. 8 years among adults with occasional sleeping difficulty.
ALL ADULTS: SLEEPING BEHAVIOR
Adults may use weekends to make up for lost sleep
- Everyone was asked about their typical schedules for waking and going to bed on weekdays and on weekends. Overall, nearly half (46%) of the adults surveyed say they get out of bed at 6:00 a.m. or earlier on weekdays, but only 17% say they do on weekends. The majority of adults report going to bed later on weekends than on weekdays. Interestingly, people who report difficulty sleeping are not a great deal different in their reported habits than normal sleepers.
- Asked to estimate the number of hours they actually spend asleep each night, the reported average among all adults is 7 hours, but lowers to 5 hours among those say they have difficulty sleeping on a frequent basis.
Specific problems experienced by people with sleeping difficulties
- When asked about the frequency with which they experience specific sleep-related problems, four in ten (43%) adults with sleeping difficulty say they very often wake up in the middle of the night (68% among those who have sleeping difficulties on a frequent basis). One-third say they very often wake up feeling drowsy or tired (53% among those who have difficulty sleeping on a frequent basis). One in four report they very often have difficulty falling back to sleep after waking up, and as many say they very often wake up too early in the morning. One in five report they very often have difficulty falling asleep (49% among adults who experience frequent sleeping problems). Slightly fewer than one in five (18%) report that they very often move or jerk their legs during sleep.
Stress/worries most often named as cause of sleeping difficulty
- Everyone who said they have experienced difficulty sleeping was asked what he/she believed caused the problem. The most frequent response was stress or worries, mentioned by 46%. In fact, one in four (26%) believe that you cant be successful in a career and get enough sleep. One in fourteen (7%) cited medical problems-a reason more commonly reported by those age 55 and over. Shift work or other job-related disruptions and/or children were other causes, each mentioned by at least three percent. While stress/worry was the leading response among all groups, those who said they experienced difficulty sleeping only at certain times were more likely than those with chronic sleeping problems to cite this as a cause (52% vs. 30%). also, it should be noted that adults who have occasional problems sleeping to say they don¹t know what causes their sleeping difficulties.
DISCUSSION WITH HEALTH CARE PROFESSIONAL/AWARENESS AND KNOWLEDGE OF TREATMENTS AVAILABLE TO HELP PROMOTE SLEEP
A majority who have sleep problems have not discussed sleep difficulty with health care professional
- Three in ten (30%) adults who report having difficulty sleeping say they have discussed their sleep problems with a physician or other health care professional, while seven in ten say they have not. those with frequent sleeping difficulties are more likely than others to say they have talked with a health care professional about their sleeping problems (45%). Still, more than half (55%) who say they have difficulty sleeping on a frequent basis report they have not discussed the subject of sleep with a health care professional. And, only one in five who saw a health care professional report making the visit specifically to discuss sleep: most (80%) said they had made the appointment for another reason.
- The most common reason given for not seeing a health care professional about sleep problems is a sense that it is not a big enough problem.
- Asked if they had ever been diagnosed by a doctor or other health care professional with any of four sleep disorders, one in twenty adults (5%) who say they have had trouble sleeping report they have been diagnosed as having insomnia (12% among those with frequent sleeping difficulties). Three percent say they have been diagnosed with restless legs syndrome, and two percent with sleep apnea. Less than one-half of one percent report having been diagnosed with narcolepsy.
AWARENESS AND KNOWLEDGE OF TREATMENTS AND METHODS USED TO HELP PROMOTE SLEEP
Adults try variety of methods to help promote sleep
- All who reported having difficulty sleeping were asked to what extent they felt they understood the treatments currently available for sleeping difficulties. Approximately three in ten (28%) felt they knew the treatments available very well or well. The large majority (72%) report they do not understand current treatments available. Adults who have discussed their sleep problems with a physician or other health care professional are more likely than those who have not to say they understand the current treatments available (44% either very well or well vs. 21%).
- Adults with sleeping difficulties were read a number of possible methods that might be used by those experiencing insomnia to help promote sleep. Among the list read to the respondents, reading was the method most frequently mentioned (64%) as something adults with sleeping difficulties have tried to help them sleep. Nearly half report having tried a warm bath. Cutting out caffeine and/or relaxation techniques were other common methods, each mentioned by at least four in ten with sleeping difficulties. More than one-third (37%) report they have tried nighttime formulations of over-the-counter cough, cold or pain relief products, and one in five (22%) say they have tried over-the-counter non-prescription medications specifically for sleep. Sixteen percent say they have tried a nightcap to help them sleep. Fifteen percent report they have tried a prescription sleep medication.
- At least one-third or more who have tried any of these methods feel they were very effective in helping them sleep. Half who tried a prescription sleep medication report it was very effective. Among those who tried reading and/or cutting out caffeine, approximately four in ten rate them as very effective methods. However, with the exception of prescription sleep medications, no more than one-third report that a doctor or other health care professional had recommended each of the methods they had tried to help them sleep.
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