WASHINGTON, DC, November 19 -- The events of September 11 had a dramatic impact on the quality of Americans' sleep, according to a new poll by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), which found nearly one-half of respondents reporting symptoms of insomnia as they tried to sleep in the nights immediately following the attacks. Women had more difficulty sleeping than men during this time, the poll results show.
The results suggest a significantly greater number of sleep problems following September 11 compared with the period preceding the 9/11 events.
Sleep problems frequently experienced by those polled in the immediate aftermath of September 11 included: difficulty falling asleep (44%), awakenings during the night (48%), and waking up feeling unrefreshed (50%). Nearly two out of five respondents (39%) said they awakened too early and couldn't get back to sleep. Each of these sleep problems is characterized as a symptom of insomnia by sleep experts.
Women had substantially more sleep problems than men in the days immediately following the terrorist attacks, according to the NSF poll findings. Female respondents were more likely than males to say they frequently had difficulty falling asleep (50% vs. 37%), while two out of five male respondents said they never had difficulty falling asleep during that period compared to females (40% vs. 26%).
More than one-half of the female respondents said they were frequently awake a lot during the night (59% vs. 38%), and nearly one-half of the females polled said they woke up too early and couldn't get back to sleep (47% vs. 30%).
On the other hand, nearly twice as many of the males polled said they were never awake a lot during the nights following the attacks compared to female respondents (33% vs. 18%). Almost one-half (46%) of male respondents said they never experienced waking up too early and being unable to fall back asleep; only about one-fourth (28%) of female respondents said they never experienced these problems during this period.
Stress or anxiety were by far the leading causes of frequent night awakenings for poll respondents in the wake of September 11. Among those who reported an inability to sleep through the night, 71 percent attributed the problem to stress or anxiety, while fear (33%), depression (32%), and bad dreams (23%) were other reasons cited.
In spite of their sleep problems, however, more than one-half of respondents (51%) rated the quality of their sleep as good or better immediately after September 11, while 47 percent said their sleep was fair or poor. Surprisingly, there was no statistical difference by region in the quality of people's sleep, according to the NSF poll. In fact, respondents in the Northeast were more likely to say their sleep was 'very good' or better during this time than those in the Midwest, South, and West (31% vs. 15% vs. 20% vs. 28%).
By contrast, when asked about the quality of their sleep over the entire past year, nearly three-fourths (74%) of those polled said their sleep was good to excellent while 28 percent said it was fair or poor during this time. Respondents reported significantly fewer symptoms of insomnia throughout the past year than they did in the nights immediately following September 11. One fourth of those polled said they frequently had difficult falling asleep during the past year, and the same number reported waking up too early and not getting back to sleep. Also in the past year, more than one-third of respondents (37%) reported frequent awakenings during the night, while four in ten (40%) said they woke up feeling unrefreshed in the past year.
WB&A Market Research conducted the telephone survey of 993 adults over the age of 18 between October 1 and November 13. The questions are part of the National Sleep Foundation's 2002 Sleep in America poll, which will be released in April. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percent.
For more information, go to "Sleep Problems Following a Crisis"
See NSF's Web site for a complete list of NSF Public Opinion polls.
The National Sleep Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving public health and safety by achieving understanding of sleep and sleep disorders, and supporting public education, sleep-related research, and advocacy.
At the National Sleep Foundation, our heartfelt concerns are with all Americans and people around the world who are suffering as a result of the tragic events that occurred starting on September 11, 2001.
As a result of pain, grief, and stress, many people experience sleep disruptions, including trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, waking early or having nightmares. People may also feel excessively sleepy during the day or at times when they expect to be alert. Often these are manifestations of underlying distress. Nonetheless, lost sleep or excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS) contribute to feelings of adversity, can seem like one more "loss of control" and add to the burdens which in their totality can be overwhelming. Lost sleep also robs us of the opportunity to restore ourselves physically, emotionally and even cognitively.
That is why the National Sleep Foundation has put together the following information to help people address their need for sleep, sleep problems and how to maximize the sleep they get during trying times. Our materials include links within our site and to others as well as resources that can help you. Topics include:
Coping with Sleep and Stress: A Conversation with a Sleep Expert
Sleep: Why It Matters
Books - www.relapse.org