The National Sleep Foundation's (NSF) has taken their annual Sleep in America poll for Americans’ sleep quality. Individuals feel sleepy on average 3 times a week, with 62% trying to "shake it off" as their primary response.
Those who feel sleepy 5 to 7 days a week report especially high rates of irritability (52%), headaches (40%), and feeling unwell (34%). "Frequently, friends and family notice the effects of sleepiness including changes in mood and irritability before you do," said Dr. Temitayo Oyegbile-Chidi, Pediatric Neurologist, Georgetown University Hospital.
The Sleep in America poll found when people feel sleepy, more Americans say it's generally because they're not sleeping well enough (55%) as opposed to not having enough time to sleep (44%). "Not getting the restorative benefit of sleep when you give yourself enough time for sleep could be a sign of other issues and should not be ignored," said Dr. Oyegbile-Chidi.
"I have patients in my office every day who can't understand why they are always so sleepy," said Dr. Paul Doghramji, physician at the Collegeville Family Practice. "It's concerning to see so many sleepy Americans with no plan other than to shake it off," Dr. Doghramji added.
"These data suggest that people continue to avoid sleepiness as a symptom, but disregarding persistent sleepiness is ill advised," said Dr. Patrick Strollo, Professor of Medicine and Clinical and Translational Science, University of Pittsburgh. "Sleepiness isn't normal. If you experience routine sleepiness you should address it," added Dr. Strollo.
The NSF recommends 7 to 9 hours of sleep for adults aged 18 to 64 and 7 to 8 hours for older adults aged 65 and over. Characteristics of a good night's sleep include waking up feeling refreshed, alert, and able to be fully productive throughout your waking hours. The NSF's Sleep Health Index score – based on measures of sleep quality, sleep duration and disordered sleep – is worse among people who report having more sleepy days. In the 2020 Q1 Sleep Health Index, sleep quality, rated 64 on a scale of 0 to 100, was below average compared to prior Indexes.
"We know from prevalence and longitudinal data that one third of the population is concerned over their sleepiness as it affects their lives and ability to perform their jobs," said Dr. Maurice Ohayon, director of the Stanford Sleep Epidemiology Research Center.
There are simple and effective sleep tips to help people get a good night's sleep. Encouraging a consistent sleep schedule, even on weekends, and practicing a relaxing bedtime ritual are great first steps. The easiest way to get started is to have people track their sleep, which can be done with a paper and pencil diary or any of several available apps on smart phones and smart watches.
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