Sleepless in Mississippi: many 'surviving' on less than five hours sleep


Special to The Dispatch



We're told the ideal amount of sleep is a blissful seven or eight hours, but in today's increasingly busy world, that's not always possible to achieve. However, sleeping much less than that can have serious implications for our health and how we function during the day. Mattress review website Mattress Clarity polled 2,500 American workers and found that, on average, almost a quarter of people say they are 'surviving' on five hours, or less, sleep every night. 


Mississippi workers are among the most sleepless people in America, with over one-third (39.7 percent) surviving on little sleep each night. In fact, they are the second most sleepless in the nation, according to the poll. In comparison, the state doing better in the 'sleepstakes' is Arkansas, where the least amount of people -- just 8.6 percent -- say they sleep five hours or less. 


Broken down by state, the poll found that Nevada is where the highest number of people are surviving on five hours of sleep or less: 43.8 percent of them in fact -- the 170K-plus casino workers in Las Vegas may account for Nevada leading the sleep survival statistics nationwide.  




Why aren't we sleeping? 


It appears that getting this little sleep could be attributed to people's employment and the wider economy. How? For a start, 57 percent of people surveyed who sleep less than five hours say that work stress leads them to experience a bad night's sleep. In fact, statistics show that Americans work more than anyone else in the industrialized world -- more than the English, French, Germans or Japanese. We also take less vacation, work longer days and retire later, too. 


Additionally, an ABCNEWS poll found only 26 percent of Americans feel they work too hard, which is twice as many as 13 percent of respondents told a Harris Poll in 1960 that they felt overworked. This increased to about a third of people with kids, or workers between 35 and 54 years old. 


Long hours are taking their toll on the quality, and the length, of sleep. It can seem like we're never "not" at work, as there has been a rise in Americans having more than one job, in order to make ends meet. The Labor Department recently reported that 7.6 million workers held multiple jobs. 


Even when we've left work, we don't switch off: Mattress Clarity's survey found that almost half of Americans check work emails before going to bed at night (42 percent). And if something's gone wrong, or if you're worried about what's going to happen the next day, it is likely keep you awake. 


Psychologist Robert Stewart said, "It's true we can survive on five hours a night sleep, but it's also true we can survive on a sugar diet, an 80 hour work week or living in isolation -- for a time. The human mind has evolved to make sacrifices and survive in periods of extreme danger thus it can get by on minimal resources. However, this isn't healthy or sustainable in the long term and will result in adverse effects both psychologically and physically." 


Stewart noted that five hours' sleep can cause diminished concentration, lower attention levels and increased agitation. A rise in cortisol, the stress hormone, will follow "and this will mean we store more fat, our blood pressure increases and we struggle to uptake serotonin and oxytocin, our long-term feel-good hormones."  


To see how states compared in the sleep survival survey, visit the interactive map at



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