Many Americans today seem to know they aren’t getting a healthy amount or quality of sleep, and this assumption has been verified in a recent study down by the National Sleep Foundation. A recent study of American sleeping habits revealed that not only are Americans using digital communications devices – the internet, texting, and social media most pervasively – but they also aren’t getting nearly the amount of sleep they need on a nightly basis. This in turn is creating unhealthy coping habits for Americans all over the country and leading to a cause and effect chain of negative health outcomes.
Americans Aren’t Getting Enough Sleep
The study conducted found that forty-three percent of Americans between the ages of thirteen and sixty-four they never or rarely receive enough sleep on weeknights. Another half say they experience problems sleeping every night or nearly every night, in the form of snoring, waking up nightly, waking up too early, or feeling tired when they awake to start the day. On top of these disturbing trends, another sixty percent of Americans say their sleep needs are often not met during the week and need seven and a half hours of sleep to feel refreshed.
These same participants report getting only about six and a half hours of sleep per night on weeknights, and even less on weekends. Finally, about fifteen percent of adults and seven percent of adolescents say they sleep less than six hours on weeknights. While the initial data is troubling, this study has a second component which goes a long way to solve the issues of why this sleep gap exists for many Americans – people are using technology too much before they sleep.
Communications Technology Usage Before Bed
Nearly everyone participating in this poll – ninety-five percent – admitted to using some form of technological device before bedtime, including televisions, computers, video games, or cell phones. These devices were usually used in the hour before bed. There was, however, a generational gap in the data, as baby boomers, generations X, generations Y, and generation Z all reported vastly different uses and times of technology interaction.
Television viewing was more prevalent among boomers and generation X – sixty-seven and sixty-three percent respectively – than generation Z and generation Y – fifty percent and forty-nine percent respectively – meaning older generations feel more comfortable watching television late at night than their younger counterparts.
This is troublesome for all generations, because artificial light exposure between dusk and bedtime is known to suppress melatonin, a hormone which promotes sleep, enhance alertness, and shift circadian rhythms to an hour later. All of these factors combined make it far more difficult to sleep at night for many. Laptop use is also common, as sixty percent among all generations reported laptop use within the hour of bedtime. The trend was even more extreme in cell phone usage, and the results indicate that these numbers will probably rise well into the future, meaning the American populace will be more tired as the years progress.
Baby Boomers Are Not as Tired as Generations Y and Z
Both generation Z and generation Y reported more fatigue related to sleep than did generation X or baby boomers. Surprisingly, those aged between thirteen and eighteen years old were the sleepiest of all those participants polled. About one in five of generation Z and generation Y rated as sleepy using a standardized assessment, compared to only eleven percent of generation X and nine percent of baby boomers.
This is almost certainly due to the actual amount of sleep the different generations are receiving; generation Z reported nearly seven and a half hours of sleep on weeknights, far short of the nine hours recommended by experts. More than half of the thirteen-to-eighteen population reported waking up between 5:00am and 6:30am, compared to just forty-five percent of generation X and baby boomers, and far less than the twenty-four percent of generation Y.
This statistic in particular is starting and concerning, because teens and younger adults need more sleep on average and are predisposed to later sleep times than the general population. This means that younger generations cannot possibly get enough sleep if they’re required to wake up at these early times.
Coping with Sleepiness with Caffeine and Naps
Due to this staggering lack of sleep nationwide, many are starting to cope with their tiredness through the use of caffeine and afternoon naps. It’s estimated that the average person drinks three caffeinated drinks every weeknight, no matter what age group. Napping is common across all age groups, but most prevalent in younger age groups.
Generation Z and generation Y, at a rate of every one-in-two participants polled, said they take at least one nap during the work or school week. This is compared to only thirty-eight percent of generation X and forty-one percent of baby boomers. A majority of those polled said they follow no regular schedule when they sleep, and eighty percent of this group also said it affected their group in a negative way. Another three-quarters said it affected family life and home responsibilities, and another two-thirds said it affected their social life.
Three-quarters of the employed population of the poll group reported their lack of sleep affected their work performance and sixty percent of adults polled reported their intimate or sexual relations were worsened due to lack of sleep. It’s recommended by experts that the average population take a good look at their sleep schedules. Schedules should be normalized, and a pattern set if possible. This will increase amount and quality of sleep, and, hopefully, lead to an increase in daytime satisfaction in all of the preceding areas of life and health.
Sleep Advice from the Experts
If you’re having problems sleeping, the National Sleep Foundation as laid bear a set of recommendations and suggestions to help you improve the hours and quality of the sleep you receive every night.
- Set a sleep schedule and stick to it carefully, waking up at the same time each day.
- Make sure to avoid bright light at night and exposure yourself to it early in the morning when awake.
- Get regular exercise, as physical activity releases endorphins and helps set your biological clock.
- Establish and maintain a relaxing routine before you go to bed, something to help you relax and drift off to sleep quickly and naturally.
- Ensure your sleep environment is free of distractions and entertaining diversions.
- Treat your bedroom as a sanctuary from the stresses of the day. Don’t take electronics into the bedroom and never do stressful work or activity in your bedroom.
- Avoid caffeinated beverages, chocolate, and tobacco late at night and before bed.
- Also avoid large meals and beverages before you sleep.
- Do not drink alcohol before you sleep, as it can disrupt deep sleep patterns an encourages you to wake up prematurely.
- Do not take medicines which delay or disrupt your sleep.
- Try your best not to take late-afternoon or evening naps, unless you work nights. Naps will oftentimes disrupt regular sleep cycles and keep you awake at night.
This study has revealed some deeply flawed practices the American public is partaking in when it comes to healthy sleep habits. Do your best to unplug from life and focus on sleep a goof half-hour to an hour before you go to sleep every night. If you do have trouble sleeping, consider adhering to the National Sleep Foundations recommendations, and contact a medical expert if you’re still having problems frequently.