Do you struggle to sleep during the week and play catch up on the weekend? 

Do you toss and turn all night long and start the day in a fog?

Are you a napper?

Or are you among the lucky folks who have no problem getting enough shuteye?

Researchers at Penn State University report that most Americans fit one of these four descriptions — and how people sleep is a good predictor of their long-term health.

“Sleep is an everyday behavior. Sleep is also modifiable,” said lead researcher Soomi Lee, director of the Sleep, Stress, and Health (STEALTH) laboratory at Penn State. “Better sleeping habits can make many significant differences, from improving social relationships and work performance to promoting long-term healthy behaviors and healthy aging.”

Her team looked at data from more than 3,600 participants in the Midlife in the United States study. Researchers looked at participants’ self-reported sleep habits. That included how long they sleep, whether they’re satisfied with their sleep, their daytime alertness and chronic health conditions.

More than half of participants were identified as insomnia sleepers — struggling to doze off then sleeping only a little. Over a 10-year period, this sleep style was associated with a significantly higher likelihood of heart disease, diabetes, depression and other chronic health conditions.

Researchers said the study primarily included healthy adults, so it may not represent the entire population. Even so, most participants didn’t have the best sleep habits. A majority were insomnia sleepers or nappers — folks who mostly sleep well but often enjoy a short siesta.

And folks in these two groups were least likely to change their sleep habits over time, the study found. 

“These results may suggest that it is very difficult to change our sleep habits because sleep health is embedded into our overall lifestyle,” Lee said in a university news release. “It may also suggest that people still don’t know about the importance of their sleep and about sleep health behaviors.”

She said educating people about good sleep health is a must. 

“There are sleep hygiene behaviors that people could do to improve their sleep, such as not using cell phones in bed, exercising regularly and avoiding caffeine in the late afternoon,” Lee said.

Though age seemed to have little role in sleep habits, researchers did find that napping was common among older adults and retirees. Participants with less education and those on the brink of unemployment were more likely to be insomnia sleepers.

Lee said this suggests that societal and neighborhood influences such as financial stress and access to health resources may have a significant effect on sleep habits.

The upshot: Interventions to promote better sleep are much-needed, researchers said. Their identification of distinct sleep problems suggests that interventions can be targeted based on such factors as the risk of chronic conditions and economic vulnerability.

The findings were recently published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine.

More information

The National Institutes of Health has more about sleep deprivation.

SOURCE: Penn State University, news release, March 12, 2024

Source: HealthDay

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