Statcast Number 6 Transcript

DATE: May 7

PUBLICATION: “Sleep Duration as a Correlate of Smoking, Alcohol Use, Leisure-Time Physical Inactivity, and Obesity among Adults: United States, 2004-06”

SPOKESPERSON: Charlotte Schoenborn, a health statistician with the CDC National Center for Health Statistics, discusses the correlation between a lack of sleep and several adverse health behaviors.

SCHOENBORN: 22% of US adults who slept 7 to 8 hours were obese compared with a third of those who slept less than 6 hours… so again it’s a very large difference…

HOST: “Statcast… May 7, 2008”

HOST: Charlotte Schoenborn, a health statistician with the National Health Interview Survey, has completed a new study on sleep duration and its correlation to a variety of adverse health behaviors. Charlotte, virtually from the time we’re born we hear about how we need to get our sleep. But what are some of the health consequences of not getting enough sleep?

SCHOENBORN: We found with the Health Interview Survey that people who got less than 6 hours of sleep were more likely to be obese… they were more likely to be physically inactive… they were much more likely to smoke… and somewhat more likely to use alcohol in large quantities… things that you associate with a clustering of unhealthy behaviors.

HOST: What do you feel was the most interesting finding in your study?

SCHOENBORN: The breadth of the findings, I guess, was the most interesting – that it seems to be across all these behaviors that sleep is associated… we don’t know which direction the associations go, what’s causing what, but we do see a clustering of these unhealthy behaviors and it suggests that we need to be dealing with these as a group rather than one at a time.

HOST: What are some of the differences between those who get enough sleep and those who don’t?

SCHOENBORN: OK, well among adults 18 and older who sleep between 7 and 8 hours a night, only 18% were current cigarette smokers compared to over 30% of adults who slept less than 6 hours a night and that is a very large difference… The Healthy People national health objectives are 12% of adults smoking so in all groups we’re far from that but particularly among those who don’t sleep… One of the other very large differences was in obesity and there’s a lot of interest now in the association between obesity and in that case 22% of US adults who slept 7 to 8 hours were obese compared with a third of those who slept less than 6 hours…

HOST: Do we know why this relationship exists?

SCHOENBORN: We can’t answer the “why” question… there are biological explanations…whether that’s the whole picture, that’s uncertain.

HOST: Do we know if it’s the lack of sleep contributing to these health behaviors or is it the other way around, that these health behaviors are contributing to the lack of sleep?

SCHOENBORN: With the Health Interview Survey, we can’t determine that – we ask people about all of these things at one point in time and we don’t have a way of disentangling what is causing what. What we do know is because they occur together, that they should be likely addressed together.

HOST: Is there a public health message here?

SCHOENBORN: One very clear message is that we should get enough sleep! It’s an easy thing to say and a tough thing to do. I think the whole health promotion climate now tells us that we know what we need to be doing – we need to be not smoking, we need to be exercising, we need to be controlling our weight, and limiting our alcohol use and all of these things contribute to a healthy lifestyle.

HOST: Anything you’d like to add?

SCHOENBORN: No, I think that’s about it… I mean to encourage people to look at their total lifestyle – including sleep – and don’t diminish the importance of sleep. It is very important and it is something we just dismiss and say we’re tired but it really can affect your overall well-being.

HOST: Our thanks to Charlotte Schoenborn for joining us on this edition of Statcast. Statcast is a production of the public affairs office at CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics.