- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 3, 2009

It’s official: The boardroom has invaded the bedroom. More than 102 million people are losing sleep over the U.S. economy, according to research released Monday by the National Sleep Foundation.

One-third of Americans are losing shut-eye over personal finances, employment fears and other money worries, according to a survey of 1,000 adults from around the nation. Only 1 percent lie awake fretting about terrorism, while just 2 percent lose sleep over global warming.

The average night’s sleep? It’s now down to six hours and 40 minutes.

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The sleep-deprived are also less likely to exercise, eat reasonably or even have sex because they are simply too tired. They were more likely, however, to drive drowsy, seek caffeine and smoke.

“It’s easy to understand why so many people are concerned over the economy and jobs, but sacrificing sleep is the wrong solution,” said David Cloud, chief executive officer of the Washington-based foundation.

Troubled slumber is just the beginning, however. Marriages are also suffering.

“The more couples spend and lose in the stock market, the more they fight,” said Maryjo Rapini, a psychotherapist at Methodist Hospital in Houston, who has logged an uptick in couples seeking a referee for their money woes.

“The bickering can put a huge strain on a marriage. Stress and anxiety can erode trust between partners,” she said, adding that money — particularly, the lack of it — symbolizes different things to each sex.

“In men, it represents strength, power and self-worth. For women, money is more of a sense of security,” she added.

The University of New Hampshire, meanwhile, has identified a distinct “post-downsizing stress syndrome” among those who have managed to keep their jobs in a time of widespread layoffs.

Among other distressing things, the symptoms include trouble concentrating, irritability with fellow workers, feelings of mistrust and hopelessness, said Barry Shore, professor of “decision sciences” at the campus’s business school.

“Certainly, those who still hold their jobs feel grateful for being spared, but many also feel threatened, abandoned, burdened with more work and subject to overall greater job stress,” Mr. Shore said.

The Pew Research Center last month found that 80 percent of Americans said that jobs are now hard to come by, with just 4 percent characterizing the economy as “good.” Eighty-six percent had significantly changed their lifestyles out of such fears.

Are we getting some false impressions about the economy from media coverage? Maybe.

A Rasmussen Reports survey of 1,000 likely voters conducted Feb. 20-21 found that six out of 10 people said the press played a “very important role” is shaping the nation’s perception about the economy.

But 55 percent think the media try “to make the economy seem worse that it is,” with less that a quarter saying the press presented an accurate picture of things.

There’s a partisan divide as well: 65 percent of Republicans and 44 percent of Democrats say the media paints a bleaker picture of the economy than the facts merit.

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