Home / Press Releases / Lack of Sleep is Affecting Americans, Finds the National Sleep Foundation

Washington, D.C. (December  2014) Forty-five percent of Americans say that poor or insufficient sleep affected their daily activities at least once in the past seven days, according to the National Sleep Foundation’s inaugural Sleep Health Index™. The Sleep Health Index™ is a new annual general population poll that tracks Americans’ sleep behaviors and trends.  The Index uncovers valuable insights into Americans’ sleep beliefs, habits, knowledge and disorders and demonstrates areas for sleep health improvement.

Americans report good sleep quantity, but not quality.

Americans report sleeping an average of 7 hours and 36 minutes a night; on average going to bed at 10:55 p.m. and waking at 6:38 a.m. on workdays, and sleeping roughly 40 minutes longer on non-workdays or weekends.

Despite sleeping within the recommended number of hours a night, 35 percent of Americans report their sleep quality as “poor” or “only fair.”Twenty percent of Americans reported that they did not wake up feeling refreshed on any of the past seven days. 

Those who report poor quality sleep also report poor quality health.

Overall health was highly associated with sleep quality.  Sixty-seven percent of those with less than good sleep quality also report “poor” or “only fair” health, with 27 percent reporting otherwise “good” health. Low life satisfaction and high stress were also related to sleep quality. Groups that reported poorer sleep quality were those with an annual income of less than $20,000, those with education levels of high school or less, and Americans between 30 and 64 years old compared to younger American adults ages 18-29.

“The findings from the Sleep Health Index demonstrate a need for sleep health improvement,” said David Cloud, CEO of the National Sleep Foundation. “Sleep is an important factor in overall health. We suggest that Americans and their doctors talk about sleep as a vital sign of health and well-being.”

Gender divides sleep issues.

Women are more likely to report insomnia symptoms; men are more likely to say they snore, supporting previous data that have shown women are more commonly diagnosed with insomnia and men with sleep apnea.   

“It is well-established that men are at much greater risk of obstructive sleep apnea than women and this could explain the differences in snoring, which can be a sign of sleep apnea, said Kristen Knutson, National Sleep Foundation Poll Fellow.  “The increased rates of insomnia in women is not fully understood but may be related to increased anxiety or depression or simply gender differences in willingness to report a problem.”

Surprisingly, 24 percent of women say they have woken up feeling well-rested zero of the past seven days, compared to 16 percent of men, despite reporting similar sleep times. 

More people have been diagnosed with Sleep Apnea than previously thought 

The Sleep Health Index™ found that a higher proportion of individuals were told by a doctor that they have sleep apnea than previous reports.

“The Index found that 11.6 percent of the US population had been told by their physician that they have sleep apnea,” said the Vice-Chair of the NSF Board, Max Hirshkowitz.  “Epidemiological research estimates that approximately 25 percent of the adult population has the condition which suggests that another 13 percent of those with sleep apnea remained undiagnosed.”

Most Americans nap: Does this mean we need more sleep?

The Sleep Health Index™ indicates that more than one-half of the U.S. population has taken a nap within the past seven days. The number of naps varied by individual— 23 percent took a nap 1-2 days, 13 percent took a nap 3-4 days, 17 percent took a nap at least five days—but the frequency of napping suggests that a large number of Americans may need more sleep. 

“Getting enough sleep improves your health, strengthens your immune system, improves your mood and boosts productivity; chronic poor sleep is linked to poor health, mood disorders and low productivity,” said Knutson. “Improving sleep in various demographics could make a positive impact on public health.”

About the Sleep Health Index™ 

Since 1991, the National Sleep Foundation’s annual Sleep in America® poll has provided a yearly touchstone characterizing sleep that addresses how sleep is related to an aspect of life or to a particular subpopulation.  The new Sleep Health Index™ is an annual, nationally representative poll of U.S. adults to take the “sleep pulse” of the nation. The Sleep Health Index will track trends and chronicle our nation’s sleep health over time.

To see the full Sleep Health Index™ visit www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-health-index


The 2014 Sleep Health Index™ is a probabilistic sample of 1,253 adults living in the continental United States. Telephone interviews were conducted by landline (n=627) and cell phone (n=626). The survey was conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International (PSRAI). Interviews were conducted in both English and Spanish by Princeton Data Source between September 8 and 29, 2014. Statistical results are weighted to correct known demographic discrepancies. The margin of sampling error for the complete set of weighted data is ±3.1 percentage points. For full methodology, visit https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-health-index.

About the National Sleep Foundation

The National Sleep Foundation is dedicated to improving health and well-being through sleep education and advocacy. It is well-known for its annual Sleep in America® poll. The Foundation is a charitable, educational and scientific not-for-profit organization located in Washington, D.C. Its membership includes researchers and clinicians focused on sleep medicine, health professionals, patients, families affected by drowsy driving and more than 900 healthcare facilities. www.sleepfoundation.org