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Sleep Patterns & Statistics

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released a statistic saying that Americans age 15+ sleep 8.7 hours per day. However, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) claim that “Insufficient Sleep Is a Public Health Epidemic”. Many people look at this and say, “The BLS has to be wrong. I feel tired all of the time.” The question then is can both of these statistics be correct? I argue that, yes, both statistics can be accurate based on the surveys that were administered. I realize this seems counter intuitive  but stay with me as we go through both surveys and attempt to show both statistics can be accurate.

Let’s start with the survey by the BLS. This survey is entitled the American Time Use Survey (ATUS). Let’s skip down to the relevant part page 21 on this pdf: Time-use Diary. Let’s now assume that I am being interviewed today. Using the time frame from the ATUS survey (4AM yesterday to 4AM today), here is how I would describe my day yesterday:

Now coding it how I would assume the person administering the survey would we get (italicized are what would have had to be added in and would be counted under “other”):

According to the ATUS survey I got 8.5 hours of sleep. This falls close to the average range for my age and sex (8.9 hours of sleep per day). Therefore, I am getting enough sleep.

Let’s now compare this to the survey done by the CDC (BRFSS). Using this pdf, let’s skip to Module 7: Inadequate Sleep on page 42.

  1. During the past 30 days, for about how many days have you felt you did not get enough rest or sleep?

Answer: 30

  1. On average, how many hours of sleep do you get in a 24-hour period? Think about the time you actually spend sleeping or napping, not just the amount of sleep you think you should get.

Answer: 6.5

There are some other sleep-related questions, but these are the relevant ones. According to the CDC survey, I am not getting enough sleep.


We have just shown that for me both statistics are accurate: I am both getting enough sleep and not getting enough sleep.


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