More than a little tired

When the National Sleep Foundation conducted a survey of 1,100 adults nationwide in 200 about their sleeping habits and the consequences of sleep deprivation, the results were not surprising. Most people recognize that sleep is important in order to work and feel well, yet it is often sacrificed.

Lack of sleep can lead to serious workplace mistakes, which in turn cost employers billions of dollars each year. A whopping six million Americans logged onto the Internet in search of sleep advice in 1999, according to a Harris poll. And, with the stress of a weak economy and the continuing war against terrorism, that number is most likely only going to grow. So how big is the sleep problem and what are its effects on America’s workplace?

Sleep habits

On average, adults sleep approximately seven hours each night during the work week. When it comes to workers, 40 percent of shift workers sleep less than six and a half hours per weeknight. In addition, the study found:

* Shift workers sleep approximately 30 minutes less than non-shift workers per night.

* Most adults compensate for lost sleep by sleeping 50 minutes more each weekend night.

* On average, adults sleep approximately 7 hours a night during the workweek.

* 40 percent of shift workers sleep less than 6.5 hours per weeknight.

* 33 percent of adults get fewer than 6.5 hours of sleep per night during the week.

* Only 33 percent of adults sleep 8 hours per night during the week.

* People 65 years and older sleep an average of 30 minutes longer per night during the week.

* 43 percent of people get too little sleep because of television and the Internet use and of that group, 55 percent of the 18-29 year-olds have the highest average.

Sleep’s affect on work habits

Sleep deprivation’s greatest effect is in the workplace. Among the findings the National Sleep Foundation’s study revealed:

* 51 percent of respondents say they need seven hours of sleep to function at work, yet average less.

* 46 percent believe sleepiness interferes with work quality and safety.

* 43 percent say sleepiness interferes with daily activities at least two days each month.

* 24 percent have difficulty getting up two or more days a week.

* 19 percent attribute work errors to sleepiness

* 14 percent of all accounts of arriving late to work can be attributed to sleep deprivation.

* 6 percent of those experiencing sleepiness use mediation to stay awake.

* 8 percent of respondents say they fall asleep on the job at least once per month.

* 2 percent report having work related injuries due to sleepiness.

Attitudes and opinions

* Sleep ranks third out of four preventative health considerations – good nutrition, regular exercise, sufficient sleep and managing stress.

* 45 percent of people on average agree they would sleep less to get more work done.

*54 percent of 18-29 year-olds would sleep less to get more work done with shift workers having the largest percentage (56 percent).

* More than one out of 10 adults (13 percent) would give up sleep rather than time with friends or family, recreation or chores.

Sleep quality

* 62 percent of respondents experience sleep problems overall with shift workers suffering the most at 68 percent.

* 58 percent of those surveyed experience insomnia a few nights per week with women outranking men, 61 to 53 percent.

* 58 percent of people working more than 60 hours per week wake up unrefreshed versus 39 percent of those working 40 or less hours per week.

* 10 percent of respondents report symptoms of sleep apnea.

* 15 percent report restless legs syndrome (feelings of crawling or tingling in the legs).

Factors disrupting sleep

* Work problems – 8 percent report issues on the job disrupt sleep two or more days per week.

* Stress – 22 percent overall; women attributing sleep problems from stress 26 percent of the time versus men at 16 percent.

* Pain – 20 percent; of that number, 25 percent are women and 13 percent are men.

* Children – 17 percent; 21 percent of women report interrupted rest due to children while only 13 percent of men experience the problem.

* Partner’s snoring – 15 percent overall; with 22 percent of women kept awake versus 7 percent of men.

* 80 percent of respondents never discussed any sleep problems with their physician.

* Although experiencing sleep disorders, few people are diagnosed by a physician. Of those surveyed, 5 percent were diagnosed for insomnia and 2 percent for sleep apnea.

* Only one-third to one-half of those diagnosed ever get treated.

* 53 percent of those reporting sleep problems say they will do nothing about it except take a sleeping pill (24 percent) or use alcohol (19 percent).

National Sleep Foundation