Study Finds A Large Prevalence Of Americans Who Have This Common Sleeping Problem

Getting enough sleep is a constant battle for many. Everyone has their strategies and ideas about what works for them and what doesn't, but the truth is we are still struggling to get enough sleep, and it may not be entirely our fault.

Most adults need at least seven hours of sleep, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In fact, our overall health and wellness are directly connected to adequate, good-quality sleep. However, the reality, according to a new study published in the journal JAMA Network Open, is that isn't the case. The study monitored the sleep habits of 9,004 adults in the U.S. from 2017 to 2020. The study found that 29.8% of the participants had trouble sleeping, and 27.2% experienced daytime sleepiness. So not only did more than a quarter of the group struggle to get whatever sleep they intended to, but some also didn't accomplish enough sleep to feel energized.

The study is concerning as even in this sample group, many adults possibly risked their well-being through a lack of sleep. Dr. Bhanu Prakash Kolla, a sleep medicine specialist in the Center for Sleep Medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota told CNN, "This is a well done study examining a very large and representative sample." While these findings are significant, the study actually delved deeper and examined other more specific sleep concerns, like do days off actually make sleep problems worse?

Our body knows how much sleep it needs

Social jet lag, similar to travel jet lag, is when we have different sleep patterns during days off than work days, resulting in an offset of sorts (per WebMD). In fact, the new study found that 46% of participants experienced social jet lag and shifted sleep patterns for at least an hour. While this shift may be typical for many who work regular schedules, it isn't necessarily healthy. A 2021 study published in Nutrients linked social jet lag to increased cortisol levels, fatigue, digestive issues, trouble concentrating, early waking, and insomnia.

People are aware of their sleep problems, though they may not realize the consequences or may not have a choice in the matter. Nevertheless, 30.5% of the participants in the study reported an hour of sleep debt. In other words, the time difference between sleep needed and sleep achieved per night is called sleep debt, so adults getting six hours in a night would have a daily one-hour sleep debt (via CDC).

Luckily, getting an extra hour of sleep on the weekend compared to the weekday may actually reduce some damage from social jet lag and sleep debt, according to a 2020 study published in Sleep. Turns out, getting weekend catch-up sleep can help reduce inflammation in adults. So be sure to plan for an extra hour on days off to help offset regular sleep disturbances.