ATLANTA, Feb. 19 (UPI) -- More than 83 million Americans are walking zombies, sleeping less than the recommended seven hours per night, according to new research from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Researchers at the agency said one-third of the country is opening themselves up to greater chance for obesity, high blood pressure and other metabolic diseases by missing out on sleep.
The split between those who do and do not get enough sleep was along economic, educational and ethnic factors, which researchers said suggests a variety of reasons for why people get too little shut-eye.
"People just aren't putting sleep on the top of their priority list," Dr. Anne Wheaton, an epidemiologist at the CDC, told CNN. "They know they should eat right, get exercise, quit smoking, but sleep just isn't at the top of their board. And maybe they aren't aware of the impact sleep can have on your health. It doesn't just make you sleepy, but it can also affect your health and safety."
For the study, published in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, researchers surveyed 444,306 adults in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., finding 65.2 percent slept for at least seven hours per night.
The number of people getting the proper amount of sleep varied by state, with 71.6 percent of South Dakota residents catching seven hours a night on the high end and just 56.1 percent of Hawaiians getting seven hours. Regionally, people in the southeastern United States and those along the Appalachian Mountains get the least amount of sleep and people in the Great Plains states get the most.
The agency found most people get between five and eight hours of sleep per night as 11.8 percent sleep less than five hours per night, 23 percent get six hours of sleep, 29.5 percent average seven hours, 27.7 percent average eight hours, 4.4 percent sleep nine hours, and 3.6 percent sleep 10 hours a night.
The best sleep patterns were seen among whites, 66.8 percent of whom sleep seven hours a night, followed by 65.5 percent of Hispanics, 62.5 percent of Asians, 59.6 percent of American Indians and Alaska Natives, 54.2 percent of non-Hispanic blacks, and 53.7 percent of Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders.
More people with college degrees -- 71.5 percent -- and those who are married -- 67.4 percent -- also get the recommended seven hours every night. Just over half, 55.7 percent, of divorced, widowed or separated people sleep seven hours, and 62.3 percent of those who have never married get their seven hours.
The data follows patterns of geographic prevalence for obesity, diabetes, and death rates from heart disease and stroke, researchers report.
Sleep patterns can be changed with health education and behavioral changes, which the CDC said doctors should counsel patients on as a part of regular healthcare.
"As a nation we are not getting enough sleep," Dr. Wayne Giles, director of the CDC's Division of Population Health, said in a press release. "Lifestyle changes such as going to bed at the same time each night, rising at the same time each morning and turning off or removing televisions, computers, mobile devices from the bedroom, can help people get the healthy sleep they need."