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Sleep Disorders

20 February 2020

Not getting enough sleep? You have plenty of company

Sleep health is a multidimensional phenomenon, so examining all aspects of sleep is crucial, according to researchers.

More Americans are having trouble falling and staying asleep, and smartphones and technology are probably to blame, researchers report.

Their analysis of data from nearly 165 000 adults nationwide showed that the number who reported difficulty falling asleep at least once a week was up 1.4% between 2013 and 2017, and those who had trouble staying asleep rose 2.7%.

Those percentages may appear small, but it means that as many as five million more adults have sleep problems, according to study leader Zlatan Krizan, a professor of psychology at Iowa State University (ISU), in Ames, Iowa.

"How long we sleep is important, but how well we sleep and how we feel about our sleep is important in its own right," Krizan said in a university news release. "Sleep health is a multidimensional phenomenon, so examining all the aspects of sleep is crucial for future research."

The study was published online recently in the journal Sleep Health.

Technology likely a factor

Krizan and his team could not say what's contributing to the increase in sleep problems, but technology is likely a factor, according to lead author Garrett Hisler. He's a former ISU graduate student who is now a postdoctoral associate at the University of Pittsburgh.

"We know from our previous research there is a correlation between smartphone use and insufficient sleep among teens," Hisler said in the news release.

"If we're on our phone before bed or we're receiving alerts in the middle of the night, that can make it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night," he explained.

Too little sleep and poor sleep can increase the risk of heart disease, and sleep quality affects overall well-being, the researchers noted.

Krizan said, "We know that how well people sleep is generally very reflective of people's health and may be an indicator of other conditions. If we want a full picture of the population's health, it's important to measure and track these changes in sleep trends over time."

Image credit: iStock

 

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Sleep disorders expert

Dr Alison Bentley is a general practitioner who has consulted in sleep medicine and sleep disorders, in both adults and children of all ages, for almost 30 years. She also researches and publishes on a number of sleep-related topics both in formal research journals and lay publications including as editor of Sleep Matters, an educational newsletter on sleep disorders for doctors.

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