Americans Not So Sleep Deprived, Says University of Maryland

Contrary to conventional wisdom, Americans average as much sleep as they did 40 years ago, and possibly more, according analysis by University of Maryland sociologists.

The researchers report that adult sleep averages have increased about three hours per week over the last decade, up from 56 to 59 hours. They based their analysis on data from time diaries collected jointly by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and U.S. Census Bureau. Respondents aged 18 to 64 were asked to report all their activities the previous day in chronological order.

The Maryland study, Not So Deprived: Sleep in America, 1965-2005, identifies long working hours as the main "thief" of sleep, though most Americans still manage to average at least the "proverbial" eight hours of rest each night.

"Many Americans work too much, but most don't seem to be cutting corners on their sleep to do so," said University of Maryland sociologist John P. Robinson, lead author of the study. "Lots of people may feel like they're on a 24/7 treadmill. But the picture of the typical American as sleep-starved is not consistent with what they report in their time diaries."

Even so, the study found that working hours remain the prime predictor of sleep averages. Age and gender differences disappear when working hours are taken into account. Heavy work schedules, for example a second job, can reduce sleep averages by up to 10 hours per week.

The raw data for the study are available at http://webuse.umd.edu.

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