Scientists and researchers recommend the average adult should get between seven and nine hours of sleep every night, but do you know how many Americans miss this mark?
Considering how important sleep is to our productivity, creativity, and general health, we surveyed more than 1,300 Americans to understand their sleeping habits – from which major cities are staying up too late, the nighttime rituals that might just be ruining your beauty sleep, and the role streaming services and binge-watching could be playing on our zzz’s.
Continue reading to see what we discovered.
Sleep Patterns Across the U.S.
Getting a good night’s sleep isn’t just about waking up feeling well-rested – it’s about almost every element of your health and well-being. Feeling stressed at work? Can’t get your creative juices flowing? No energy when you get out of bed? All of these symptoms could be a byproduct of too many restless nights. Studies have shown that a person’s physical health is just as likely to be affected by good (or bad) sleeping patterns as their mental and emotional stability.
When it comes to U.S. cities getting the right amount of sleep to help fuel their days, there might just be something in the water in Colorado. When we crunched the latest numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 500 Cities Project, we found that the top three cities getting the best night’s sleep were all from the Centennial State: Fort Collins, Loveland, and Boulder. Research has shown the advantages of getting outside and its relation to how well we sleep, and Colorado happens to be one of the best states in the country for partaking in Mother Nature’s activities. In fact, 19 of the top 20 cities where Americans were more likely to be getting the recommended hours of rest came from Midwestern or Western states – only Cary, North Carolina, broke the trend.
Cities where Americans might be struggling to get the right amount of sleep each night? Gary, Indiana (where residents surveyed were 1.5 times more likely to be sleep-deprived than the average American), followed by Detroit, Michigan, and Camden, New Jersey.
Controlling Your Own Sleep Destiny
Just as there are certain things you can do before bed to help promote better rest, there are some nighttime routines you might be stuck doing that could be negatively affecting your REM cycle.
Most Americans told us it took them an average of 31 minutes to fall asleep each night, but some habits were more likely than others to prolong that amount of time. According to our study, Americans who said they either did nothing at all or made an effort to relax before going to bed fell asleep the fastest and felt the most well-rested in the morning.
On the other side of the bed, Americans who checked social media before trying to drift off to slumber took longer than average to fall asleep (over 35 minutes), and nearly three-quarters said they’d benefit from getting more sleep. Other digital activities, including watching TV or videos on a smartphone, also negatively affected how easy some Americans found it to fall asleep. Research has shown that the blue light emitted from most electronic devices constrains the production of melatonin, a natural hormone that helps regulate our sleep and wake cycles.
Quality Over Quantity
Remember the saying, “The early bird gets the worm”? Creepy-crawlies may not get you excited, but there could be something to the idea that being an early riser is better for your body than being a night owl.
Some of the most successful people in history are known for getting an early start to their days.
According to our survey, 1 in 5 Americans who considered themselves “early risers” said they always got a good night’s sleep, compared to only 1 in 10 night owls. While millennials were the most likely to say they stayed up late (33 percent), there was less than a two-hour difference between the average bedtime of Americans who considered themselves early birds and those who thought they were night owls – 10:20 p.m. and 12:15 a.m.
People who called themselves night owls were also more likely to stay up late watching Netflix and struggled to fall asleep more often than those who woke up earlier in the day.
The Reason for Restless Nights
Netflix and social media may be keeping you up at night, but so could distracting thoughts. Regardless of age, more than two-thirds of Americans told us a busy mind kept them from falling asleep at night. Experts have suggested a few tips to help soothe a worried mind, including embracing the chaos. Setting aside some scheduled time during the day to worry about things that could be bringing you down (and how to fix them) could help free your mind at night when you’re trying to sleep. Relaxation techniques can also help reduce stress and calm the mind when you’re ready to climb into bed.
According to 52 percent of millennials and 44 percent of baby boomers, feeling too hot or too cold kept them up at night. Your core body temperature (regulated by your circadian rhythm) has a lot to do with your sleep cycle, and not being able to find the right balance can lead to difficulty falling or staying asleep.
A quality afternoon nap may feel good at the moment, but according to more than a quarter of millennials and nearly 1 in 5 baby boomers, sleeping during the day or oversleeping distracted them from a good night’s rest. And despite research and studies pointing to some common habits known to disrupt our sleep patterns, more than half of Americans struggled to identify exactly what they were doing that was keeping them up at night, and as such were forced to select “No obvious reason” when asked what caused their sleeplessness.
Shutting Off Your Mind
So exactly which thoughts keep Americans up at night? For respondents who couldn’t turn their brains off at night, more than a quarter said thinking about the next day often made it harder to get a good night’s sleep. Preparing for the next day in advance by time-blocking your obligations or even just writing out the things you need to accomplish could help boost productivity and might keep those nagging thoughts at bay when trying to sleep. For almost 1 in 10 people, the most distracting thoughts were always random and fleeting rather than being about anything in particular.
While anxiety or mental health issues can sometimes be the root of these restless nights, they aren’t the only reasons a thought can keep you awake when all you want to do is sleep. If you can’t seem to turn off your brain at night, you might want to consider changing your bedtime or addressing the things you do at night that might be keeping you up. If you have a habit of scrolling through Facebook or Instagram before calling it a day, try reading a book instead to assess the potential shift in your sleep patterns.
For nearly 40 percent of Americans, the thoughts keeping them up at night were sometimes related to not sleeping in general.
Too Much Netflix, Not Enough Sleep
If you’ve ever felt like you couldn’t fall asleep without the TV running in the background, it could be that turning on Netflix might not be helping your body get the sleep it needs to function properly.
Even though the people behind Netflix also designed a pair of socks to help detect when you’ve fallen asleep while watching your favorite TV show, they might not get a ton of use. In our survey, Americans who admitted to regularly staying up to watch Netflix went to bed 26 minutes later on average than those who rarely or never used the popular streaming platform. They also got less sleep (by more than 10 minutes) than Americans who said they didn’t use Netflix and were more likely to get less than seven hours of rest each night.
With almost 52 million Netflix subscribers in the U.S. as of July 2017, the 10 minutes of sleep each American binge-watching reruns of “Friends” or “30 Rock” loses every night would amount to over 8.8 million hours of lost sleep every day, and nearly 2.5 million people getting less than seven hours of rest as a result of too much TV. The primary reason for all those lost zzz’s? According to 46 percent of people polled, it was the addictive nature of their favorite shows that made it so hard to sleep at night.
Putting Your Money Where Your Rest Is
Even though a majority of Americans couldn’t put their finger on exactly which habits or routines were keeping them up at night, they also knew they’d benefit from getting more sleep and were willing to pay for even just one more hour of precious rest time.
So who was willing to pay the most? The average working American was prepared to pay $162 a month to get just one more hour of sleep on the weekdays. Research has shown that most employees put in extra hours even when they leave the office and don’t take all of their vacation days each year for fear of falling behind. Like not getting enough sleep, overworking can create stress and stifle productivity.
Americans who identified as permanently exhausted said they were willing to pay $232 a month (or $10.55 each weeknight) to get just one more hour of sleep, and parents of children under 13 said they’d find $201 a month ($9.14 a night) in their budget if it meant they could snooze the alarm for just 60 more minutes. The sleep patterns of parents who aren’t getting enough sleep may be trickling over to their children, who then face similar consequences as adults when they don’t get enough hours under the covers at night.
Feeling constantly tired is no fun, which is why people in our survey who described themselves as “Permanently Exhausted Pigeons” said they’d pay $10.55 for an additional hour of sleep on weekdays (just over California’s minimum hourly wage). On the other hand, those who said they typically got a good night’s sleep every day of the week would only pay $1.86, nearly six times less than someone who is always yawning.
Early birds reported getting better quality sleep than night owls, so if you’re nocturnally inclined, consider hitting the hay a little earlier to find a better balance. Comfort is also key and, given that we spend around 25 years of our lives asleep, you should be choosing a high-performance mattress that has been clinically tested to enhance your sleep. At Amerisleep, we can help you find the best mattress to accommodate all of your sleeping habits and needs, so check out some of our mattress reviews to read the opinions of sound sleepers across the country.
Once you’re lying on your perfect mattress and tucked up under the covers, avoid checking social media, as it will typically add 12 minutes to the time it takes to fall asleep, which is more than an hour a week, or three days a year! Not many social feeds are worth that amount of lost zzz’s.
Amerisleep asked more than 1,300 Americans a host of questions about their sleeping habits, including when they went to bed, what they did directly before sleep, and what kept them awake at night. We also analyzed data from the CDC to determine which U.S. cities had the highest proportion of people who got less than seven hours of sleep each night.
Findings that mentioned early birds, night owls, intermediate iguanas (people who weren’t early birds or night owls), and permanently exhausted pigeons (people who felt tired regardless of sleep times) were based on respondents’ characterizations of their sleep patterns, using definitions we provided. For example: “Early bird: You prefer to rise early in the morning and go to bed relatively early in the evening.”
“25 years asleep” is based on a person who lives to age 75 and spends one-third of his or her life asleep.
Fair Use Statement
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This article is for informational purposes and should not replace advice from your doctor or other medical professional.