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Americans trade sleep for work

WASHINGTON — Americans are sleep-deprived workaholics, with only about a third sleeping the recommended eight hours a night, and about 40 percent say they have trouble staying awake on the job, according to a poll released Tuesday.

The survey by the National Sleep Foundation said Americans are spending more time working than they did five years ago. "Instead of working to live, they are living to work, a shift that has had a profound impact on their personal lives," the foundation said.

The 2001 Sleep in America poll of 1,004 adults found that 63 percent get less than eight hours a night and about 31 percent get less than seven hours. Many, the poll found, try to catch up on sleep on the weekends, but even then the average slumber is 7.8 hours, still less than ideal.

While they are spending less time sleeping, 40 percent of those polled say they are working longer hours than five years ago. The average work week was 46 hours, while 38 percent said they worked 50 hours or more a week.

Richard L. Gelula, the foundation's executive director, said the survey showed Americans do not want to give up any more sleep and would sleep more if they thought it added to the quality of their lives.

But, he said, "the bad news is far too many adults still sacrifice sleep, which is unhealthy and counterproductive. A good night's sleep is a necessity, not a luxury."

Forty percent of those surveyed say they become so sleepy during the day that their work suffers at least a few days per month, with 22 percent saying the problem occurs a few days each week. And 7 percent say sleepiness on the job is a daily occurrence.

To stay awake during the day, 43 percent said they use caffeine and 5 percent go for something stronger, such as stay-alert medications.

More than half of the surveyed adults say they have driven cars while drowsy during the past year, and 19 percent said they actually have fallen asleep at the wheel. One percent said they have had an accident after dozing off while driving.

The survey linked daytime sleepiness with marital problems. Among those having sleep problems, 77 percent said they also had less marital satisfaction. Among the happily married, 69 percent said they had sleep problems. Thirty-four percent of all adults sleep alone, including 12 percent of those who are married, the survey found.

Having children also cuts into a good night's sleep, the survey showed. Adults with children average 6.7 hours of sleep a night, while those without children average 7.2 hours. Singles with no children average about 7.1 hours, the poll showed.

The majority (51 percent) reported insomnia at least a few nights a week in the past year, while 29 percent said they have the problem nightly. The most frequent insomnia-linked complaint, 34 percent, is not feeling refreshed upon awakening, while 32 percent complain of being awake much of the night.

Sleep disorders are common, with 38 percent saying they snore a few nights each week. Nine percent have sleep apnea, which is a pause in breathing during sleep, and 13 percent reported restless legs syndrome.

Television takes up at least part of the last hour before bed for 87 percent of the surveyed Americans. Seventy-three percent socialize with friends a few nights a week before sleep. Other pre-sleep activities included reading (53 percent); bathing (50 percent); doing household chores (50 percent); sex (33 percent); listening to music or the radio; going to the Internet (23 percent), and doing job-related work, 21 percent.

The survey was conducted for the foundation by WB&A Market Research. It is based on telephone polling of 1,004 Americans who were at least 18 years of age. The margin of error was plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Marcia Stein, a spokeswoman for the National Sleep Foundation, said the Washington-based organization promotes public education about sleep and sleep disorders. She said it receives some support from bedding manufacturers.

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