As a clinician specializing in sleep medicine, I am happy to see the increase in volume of sleep articles over the past 2 years. I find that most medical journals and consumer publications include content about sleep. However, although the number of sleep-related articles has increased, patients are still not getting sufficient rest. I recall numerous occasions when a patient has told me, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” This alone tells me how many patients feel about sleep.
Throughout my time as a sleep medicine provider, I have enjoyed reading National Sleep Foundation polls. Every year the organization chooses a sleep-related subject about which to survey US adults and analyze sleep patterns in homes across the country. The 2018 poll is titled, “Sleep and Effectiveness Are Linked, but Few Plan Their Sleep.” The results demonstrate that the majority of adults think sleep contributes to their next-day effectiveness; however, only 1 in 10 calls sleep his or her top priority. In the study, sleep was prioritized below physical fitness (35%), work (27%), and hobbies (17%), and was approximately equal to socializing (9%).
Sleep is strongly connected to overall health. Of those polled, 89% considered themselves excellent sleepers and said they are “extremely, highly, or very effective” at accomplishing daily tasks. This effectiveness declined to just 46% in the group that called themselves poor sleepers. Approximately 21% of participants noted that they feel as though they are effective in handling tasks whether they get enough sleep or not.
Participants in the poll who struggle with sleep were more likely to rate it a higher concern. Age and health also changed priorities; young and single patients were more focused on their social lives, whereas older adults prioritized fitness and nutrition. However, in patients who planned their sleep in advance, young adults (aged 18-29 y) scored the highest; nearly 60% said they give some consideration to planning their sleep.
Our busy American lifestyle does not always lend itself to prioritizing our sleep. We live in a “go, go, go” society. Children and adults are often overscheduled with activities that may last until bedtime with no down-time to relax and prepare the body for sleep. A majority of Americans go to sleep with the television or mobile phone turned on. As health professionals, we have to remind our patients that sleep is vital to health and urge them to prioritize their sleep hygiene and overall sleep needs.
National Sleep Foundation. Sleep in America Poll 2018: Sleep & Effectiveness are Linked, but Few Plan Their Sleep. National Sleep Foundation website. Accessed January 23, 2018.