Sleepy Connected Americans
Sleep in America poll released by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF)
finds pervasive use of communications technology in the hour before
bed. It also finds that a significant number of Americans aren't
getting the sleep they say they need and are searching for ways to
Americans report dissatisfaction with their sleep during the week.
The poll found that 43% of Americans between
ages of 13 and 64 said they rarely or never get a good night's sleep on
weeknights. More than half (60%) said that they experience a sleep
problem every night or almost every night (i.e., snoring, waking in the
night, waking up too early, or feeling un-refreshed when they get up in
About two-thirds (63%) of Americans said
sleep needs are not being met during the week. Most said they need
about seven and a half hours of sleep to feel their best, but report
getting about six hours and 55 minutes of sleep on average weeknights.
About 15% of adults between 19 and 64 and 7% of 13-18 year olds said
they sleep less than six hours on weeknights.
"This poll explores the association between
Americans' use of communication technologies and sleep habits," said
David Cloud, CEO of the NSF. "While these technologies are commonplace,
it is clear that we have a lot more to learn about the appropriate use
and design of this technology to complement good sleep habits."
technology use before sleep is pervasive.
Americans report very active technology use
hour before trying to sleep. Almost everyone surveyed, 95%, uses some
type of electronics like a television, computer, video game or cell
phone at least a few nights a week within the hour before bed. However,
baby boomers (46-64 year olds), generation X'ers (30-45 year olds),
generation Y'ers (19-29 year olds) and generation Z'ers (13-18 year
olds) report very different technology preferences.
About two-thirds of baby boomers (67%) and
generation X'ers (63%) and half of generation Z'ers (50%) and
generation Y'ers (49%) watch television every night or almost every
night within the hour before going to sleep.
"Artificial light exposure between dusk and
time we go to bed at night suppresses release of the sleep-promoting
hormone melatonin, enhances alertness and shifts circadian rhythms to a
later hour -- making it more difficult to fall asleep," said Charles
Czeisler, PhD, MD, Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's
Hospital. "This study reveals that light-emitting screens are in heavy
use within the pivotal hour before sleep. Invasion of such alerting
technologies into the bedroom may contribute to the high proportion of
respondents who reported that they routinely get less sleep than they
Computer or laptop use is also common.
in 10 (61%) said they use their laptops orcomputers at least a few
nights a week within the hour before bed. More than half of generation
Z'ers (55%) and slightly less of generation Y'ers (47%) said they surf
the Internet every night or almost every night within the hour before
"My research compares how technologies that
'passively received' such as TVs and music versus those with
'interactive' properties like video games, cell phones and the Internet
may affect the brain differently," said Michael Gradisar, PhD, Flinders
University (Australia). "The hypothesis is that the latter devices are
more alerting and disrupt the sleep-onset process. If you feel that
these activities are alerting or causing you anxiety, try doing
something more 'passive' to help you wind down before bed."
Generation Z'ers (36%) and generation Y'ers
are about twice as likely as generation X'ers (15%) and baby boomers
(12%) to said they play a video game within the hour before bedtime at
least a few times a week. More than 1 in 10 (14%) of generation Z'ers
said they do so every night or almost every night before going to
"Over the last 50 years, we've seen how
viewing has grown to be a near constant before bed, and now we are
seeing new information technologies such as laptops, cell phones, video
games and music devices rapidly gaining the same status," said Lauren
Hale, PhD, Stony Brook University Medical Center. "The higher use of
these potentially more sleep-disruptive technologies among younger
generations may have serious consequences for physical health,
cognitive development and other measures of wellbeing."
Cell phone use, specifically texting and
on the phone, shows a significant age gap. More than half of generation
Z'ers (56%) and nearly half of generation Y'ers (42%) said they send,
read or receive text messages every night or almost every night in the
hour before bed compared to 15% of generation X'ers and 5% of baby
Cell phones were sometimes a sleep
About in one in ten of generation Z'ers (9%) said that they are
awakened after they go to bed every night or almost every night by a
phone call, text message or email. About 1 in 5 of generation Y'ers
(20%) and generation Z'ers (18%) said this happens at least a few
nights a week.
"Unfortunately cell phones and computers,
make our lives more productive and enjoyable, may also be abused to the
point that they contribute to getting less sleep at night leaving
millions of Americans functioning poorly the next day," said Russell
Rosenberg, PhD, vice chairman of the NSF.
boomers are less sleepy than generations Y and Z.
Generation Z'ers and generation Y'ers report
sleepiness than generation X'ers and baby boomers, with the 13-18 year
olds being the sleepiest of all. Roughly 1 in 5 of generation Z'ers
(22%) and generation Y'ers (16%) rate as "sleepy" using a standard
clinical assessment tool (included in the poll) compared to about one
in ten generation X'ers (11%) and baby boomers (9%).
Generation Z'ers report sleeping an average
hours and 26 minutes on weeknights, about an hour and 45 minutes less
than the 9 hours and 15 minute recommended by experts. More than half
of 13-18 year olds (54%) said they wake up between 5:00 am and 6:30 am
on weekdays -- compared to 45% of generation X'ers and baby boomers and
24% of generation Y'ers.
"As children develop into their teenage
their bodies are biologically predisposed towards later bedtimes," said
Amy Wolfson, PhD, an expert on adolescent sleep. "If they are required
to get up before 6:30 to go to school, it's impossible for teens to get
the amount of sleep they need."
with sleepiness through caffeine and naps.
Americans are coping with sleepiness by
caffeine and taking regular naps. The average person on a weekday
drinks about three 12 ounce caffeinated beverages, with little
difference between age groups.
Napping is common in all age groups, but the
youngest groups reported slightly more napping during the week. More
than half of generation Z'ers (53%) and generation Y'ers (52%) said
they take at least one nap during the work week/school week compared to
about 4 in 10 generation X'ers (38%) and baby boomers (41%).
For the more than a quarter who say their
schedules do not allow for adequate sleep, when asked to evaluate the
day after getting inadequate sleep, more than 8 in 10 (85%) said that
it affects their mood; almost three-quarters (72%) said it affects
their family life or home responsibilities, and about two-thirds (68%)
said it affects their social life.
For those who are employed and report not
adequate sleep, about three quarters (74%) of those over 30 said that
sleepiness affects their work. About two-thirds of adults (61%) said
that their intimate or sexual relations were affected by sleepiness
(13-18 year olds were not asked this question).
Sleepiness also played a factor in safe
practices. Half of generation Y'ers (50%) said they drove while drowsy
at least once in the past month. More than a third of generation X'ers
(40%) and approximately a third of generation Z'ers (30%) and baby
boomers (28%) also say so. A staggering number, about 1 in 10, of
generation X'ers (12%), generation Y'ers (12%) and generation Z'ers
(8%) said they drive drowsy once or twice a week.
"If you're having problems sleeping at
if you're feeling too sleepy the next day, take a look at your bedtime
habits," said Allison Harvey, PhD, behavioral sleep expert at UC
Berkeley. "Create a relaxing wind-down routine and turn down the
lights. Make your bedroom a sanctuary from the worries of your day."
Healthy Sleep Advice
If you are having problems sleeping, the NSF
suggests the following to improve your sleep:
- Set and stick to a sleep schedule. Go to
bed and wake up at the same times each day.
- Expose yourself to bright light in the
and avoid it at night. Exposure to bright morning light energizes us
and prepares us for a productive day. Alternatively, dim your lights
when it's close to bedtime.
- Exercise regularly. Exercise in the
help you get the light exposure you need to set your biological clock.
Avoid vigorous exercise close to bedtime if you are having problems
- Establish a relaxing bedtime routine.
Allow enough time to wind down and relax before going to bed.
- Create a cool, comfortable sleeping
that is free of distractions. If you're finding that entertainment or
work-related communications are creating anxiety, remove these
distractions from your bedroom.
- Treat your bed as your sanctuary from the
stresses of the day. If you find yourself still lying awake after 20
minutes or so, get up and do something relaxing in dim light until you
- Keep a "worry book" next to your bed. If
wake up because of worries, write them down with an action plan, and
forget about them until morning.
- Avoid caffeinated beverages, chocolate
and tobacco at night.
- Avoid large meals and beverages right
- No nightcaps. Drinking alcohol before bed
can rob you of deep sleep and can cause you to wake up too early.
- Avoid medicines that delay or disrupt
sleep. If you have trouble sleeping, ask your doctor or pharmacist if
your medications might be contributing to your sleep problem.
- No late-afternoon or evening naps, unless
you work nights. If you must nap, keep it under 45 minutes and before
For more information on the NSF, visit http://www.sleepfoundation.org