Why aren't we sleeping enough?

On average, Americans get far less sleep than we need. Are we choosing TV and the internet over sex and Zzz's?

Americans are too tired to go out and socialize, too tired to work, and even too tired for sex, according to a new survey from the National Sleep Foundation. But while the poll results highlight a nation of sleep-deprived adults, they also pull back the curtain on what we're doing, collectively and by race, instead of sleeping. Here's a look at why we're sleepless in America:

How much sleep do we get?

Whites and Asians sleep an average of 7 hours on work nights, while Hispanics sleep 6 1/2, and blacks, 6. We all sleep at least an extra hour on weekend nights. But it's not enough. "You need about 8 1/2 hours of sleep a night," says Dr. Jose Loredo at the U.C. San Diego Sleep Medicine Center.

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Is our sleep deprivation a problem?

Yes, according to sleep experts. Lack of sleep has been tied to increased heart attacks, hypertension, obesity and decreased productivity.

Is sleeplessness spread equally among us?

It varies by race and ethnic group. Asians reported sleeping the best, with 84 percent getting a good night's sleep at least a few times a week; only 66 percent of blacks said the same. Whites were the most likely to say they almost never got a good night's sleep (20 percent), versus 9 percent of Asians.

Have we always been a nation of insomniacs?

No. Overall, we sleep about two hours less a night than we did 40 years ago.

What's keeping us awake?

Concerns about money, at least for about 20 percent of whites, blacks, and Hispanics. Only 9 percent of Asians said personal finances kept them awake at night, while 12 percent listed concerns about personal relationships.

What do we do instead of sleep?

Watch TV, mostly — 75 percent of blacks, 72 percent of Hispanics, 64 percent of whites, and 52 percent of Asians watch television in the hour before bed. Asians are more likely to use the internet (72 percent) than the other groups (41-45 percent), and blacks are more likely to pray (71 percent, versus Hispanics, 45 percent, whites, 32 percent, and Asians, 18 percent).

What about sex?

About a quarter of married or cohabiting respondents from all groups said they were often too tired for sex. Still, 10 percent of blacks and Hispanics reported having sex before bed every night or almost every night, versus 4 percent of whites and 1 percent of Asians. Only 67 percent of Asians share a bed with their spouse or partner, compared with 90 percent of whites. (Whites are also much more likely to sleep with a pet — 14 percent, versus about 2 percent for the other groups.)

What else are we missing out on?

Fun. Between 19 percent (whites) and 24 percent (Asians) of respondents said they missed at least one family, leisure, or work event a month due to sleepiness or a sleeping problem.

Does the survey authors have any advice for sleeping better?

Of course. Among their suggestions: Go to sleep at the same time every night; treat your bedroom as a sleep-only zone; start a relaxing bedtime ritual, perhaps with soft music or a warm bath; cut back on alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine; sleep in a cool, dark room with comfortable bedding; and if you can't sleep, go to another room until you relax, then try again.

Sources: National Sleep Foundation, Los Angeles Times, BusinessWeek, New York Times, NPR

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