March 2015 archive

Is discomfort keeping Americans up at night?

Since 1990, the National Sleep Foundation has been promoting the benefits of good sleep to Americans, and the body’s annual sleep poll – which has been running since 2002 – is seen as a yard stick for the state of the nation’s sleeping habits. In 2014, the poll focused on family dynamics, and found that children whose parents set a firm sleeping and bedtime routine in place slept better. This year, the poll sought out information about discomfort and pain, and how much they impact on Americans trying to get a good night’s shut eye – and the results might surprise you.

The majority of those who answered the 2015 National Sleep Foundation poll – 57% – said they suffered from either chronic pain, or had suffered acute pain in the week leading up to the survey. So, is half of America really in too much pain to get a good night’s sleep?

According to the results of the survey, pain is a key factor in the amount of sleep people get versus the amount of sleep they feel they need. On average, those who suffer from conditions causing chronic pain have a  “sleep debt” of 42 minutes each night, compared to just 14 minutes for those who have experienced acute pain in the last week – in this context, acute pain could refer to a headache, stomach cramp or aches and pains in the limbs.

CEO of the foundation David Cloud, when commenting on these results, urged those even with chronic pain to try and put a sleeping routine in place, saying sleep “is a key marker of health”.

“Taking control of your sleep by being motivated, setting a routine bedtime and creating a supportive sleep environment are relevant even for those with pain,” he said.

The impact of a lack of good sleep was clear to see from the rest of the poll results. Nearly a quarter of those with chronic pain reported higher levels of stress, and more than 50% of chronic pain sufferers who have had trouble sleeping in the past week said this lack of rest had had a negative effect on their work.

Issues with sleep seem to trap sufferers in a vicious circle, too, with people unable to sleep due to pain reporting that their problems worsen due to worrying over this lack of sleep, and that even when they do manage to nod off, they are more prone to sleep sensitivity caused by noise, a bedroom being too hot or cold, or an uncomfortable mattress.

So what is the solution? Those who conducted the survey suggested that in the case of the missing sleep, it might be a case of mind over matter. Of all those surveyed, those who said they were very or extremely motivated to get enough sleep slept an average of 36 minutes longer each night.  Making sleep a priority also had a positive impact on those who complained of pain disturbing their night’s rest, with poll takers reporting longer and better sleep, despite their discomfort, when they gave sleep a precedence over other activities.

The rest of the results of the sleep survey make for equally nteresting reading – to see them in more detail, visit the National Sleep Foundation at http://sleepfoundation.org/