How often do you sacrifice sleep for something else – work, pleasure, whatever? You probably know you could easily conk out if you laid down, but you don’t because...life. All of us do it more often than we should, but a new study found people are doing it less than they did 15 years ago. Finally, we seem to be wising up to the importance of sleep.
In the analysis, published in the journal Sleep, researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania looked at data from 181,335 individuals between 2003 and 2016 and found the amount of time Americans spend catching zzz’s is on the rise. During that 14-year period, the daily sleep duration of those studied started at an average of 7.5 hours per night and went up 1.4 minutes during the week and 0.8 minutes on weekends each year—which translates to more than 17 more minutes from the study’s beginning to its end.
Seventeen minutes may seem insignificant but it shows a significant cultural shift towards prioritizing sleep. People are actually sacrificing “me time” and going to bed earlier. The study found that the percentage of respondents who watched TV or read before bed—two prominent waking activities competing with sleep—decreased over the same time period. “This shows an increased willingness in parts of the population to give up pre-bed leisure activities to obtain more sleep,” said lead study author Mathias Basner, MD, PhD, in a press release. “Also, the data suggest that increasing opportunities to work, learn, bank, shop, and perform administrative tasks online and from home freed up extra time, and some of it was likely used to get more sleep.”
The study also uncovered another interesting trend – people aren’t only going to bed earlier, they’re also more concerned about their sleep and health in general. The study noted that during the same 14-year period, Google searches for “sleep” doubled – and that scientific publications on “short sleep” and its consequences grew more than 10 fold!
“As researchers, increasing awareness of short sleep and its consequences remains a critically important task to improve public health,” said Basner. “At the same time, this data provides new hope that these efforts may be effective in motivating many Americans to sleep more.”
Still, despite these gains in sleep and awareness, a third of Americans are still sleep-deprived, which can have serious consequences for their health, Basner said.
In 2015, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research Society published a consensus statement that adults should sleep 7 or more hours per night on a regular basis to promote optimal health. Are you getting enough?
- Basner, Mathias, and David F Dinges. “Sleep Duration in the United States 2003–2016: First Signs of Success in the Fight against Sleep Deficiency?” Sleep, Aug. 2018, doi:10.1093/sleep/zsy012.
- “Americans Are Getting More ZZZZs – PR News.” – PR News, www.pennmedicine.org/news/news-releases/2018/january/americans-are-getting-more-zzzzs.