Objective The objective of the study was to examine the independent association of emotional distress with unhealthy sleep duration (defined as <7 or >8 hours). Methods Data from the 2009 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), a cross-sectional household survey, were analyzed to investigate the associations of emotional distress with unhealthy sleep durations, adjusting for sociodemographic factors, health risks, and chronic diseases through hierarchical multiple logistic regression analysis. Participants A total of 27,731 participants (age range 18–85 years) from the NHIS 2009 dataset were interviewed. Measures Unhealthy sleep duration is defined as sleep duration <7 or >8 hours, whereas healthy sleep is defined as sleep duration lasting for 7–8 hours. Emotional distress is based on the Kessler 6 Non-Specific Distress Battery, which assesses the frequency of feeling sad, nervous, restless, hopeless, worthless, and burdened, over a 30-day period. Results Of the sample, 51.7% were female; 83.1% were white and 16.9% were black. Eleven percent experienced emotional distress and 37.6% reported unhealthy sleep. Adjusted logistic regression analysis revealed that individuals with emotional distress had 55% greater odds of reporting unhealthy sleep (odds ratio [OR] =1.55, 95% confidence interval [CI] =1.42, 1.68, P<0.001). Conclusion Emotional distress, an important proxy for poor psychological health, was a significant predictor of unhealthy sleep, independent of the influences of several factors including demographic (age, education, sex, race/ethnicity, and family income), health risks (alcohol consumption and smoking status), and chronic diseases/conditions (diabetes, obesity, hypertension, heart disease, cancer, and arthritis).