New Gallup poll says 40% of Americans get less sleep than recommended

big yawnThe latest Gallup poll on sleep says that just 59% of Americans get seven hours or more of sleep at night — the recommended amount — and 40% are trying to get by on less than seven hours. This makes for an average of 6.8 hours as a nation — a number that has remained relatively unchanged throughout the 1990s and 2000s.

But this is a major shift from when Gallup asked the same questions in its 1942 poll, at which time the vast majority of American adults were sleeping seven hours or more per night. In fact, Americans slept almost an hour more on average in the 1940s.

Medical studies have related a lack of sleep to health problems and cognitive impairment, and experts typically recommend seven to nine hours  of sleep for adults. Currently, 59% of U.S. adults meet that standard, but in 1942, 84% did. That means four in 10 Americans get less than the recommended amount of nightly sleep, compared with the 11% who did so 70 years ago. Today, a whopping 14% of Americans sleep for five hours or less, compared with just 3% in 1942.

The poll also asked respondents whether they get as much sleep as needed. Today, 56% of Americans feel that they do — a number that has dropped significantly since just 1990, when 67% felt that they got enough sleep. Gallup did not ask the question in 1942.

Not surprisingly, Americans over 65 report getting the most sleep; 67% of seniors get seven or more hours a night.

Each younger age group gets less sleep, down to 54% of 18- to 29-year-olds who report getting seven or more hours. Nearly half of 18- to 29-year-olds get less than the recommended amount of sleep.

Parents of young children and lower-income Americans are two other groups that struggle to get the proper amount of sleep.

Less than half of Americans under age 50 think they get as much sleep as they need, but that number jumps as Americans age; 63% of those between 50 and 64 and 70% of those age 65 and older think they get enough sleep. On average, just over half of Americans (56%) say they get as much sleep as they need, a number that is down from the 1990s.

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