New Survey Explores Sleep Habits, Routines & Rituals

In honor of World Sleep Day (March 16), a new survey from Sleep Cycle, an alarm clock application, reveals that Americans turn to a number of foods, drinks, herbs and bedtime rituals to get a good night’s sleep. The national survey of 1,004 U.S. adults was conducted online by Propeller Insights on behalf of Sleep Cycle in January 2018. The survey gained interesting insights into other topics as well, exploring whether or not people wake up on their own or rely on an alarm clock, kids or pets  and what individuals would and would not forego for more sleep.


When settling in for bed, Americans often turn to foods, beverages or substances to help them relax and enhance their sleep quality. Herbal sleep aids like tea and melatonin top the list of favorites. While one might think sleepers would be more apt to turn to things like alcohol and strong sleeping pills to get snoozing faster, it turns out foods rich in calcium and magnesium like bananas and ice cream rank higher than pharmaceutical sleep aids like Ambien. Marijuana is also a popular nightcap, here’s the full breakdown:

  • Tea — 21 percent
  • Melatonin — 15 percent
  • Marijuana — 14 percent
  • Milk and cookies — 14 percent
  • Nyquil or Tylenol PM — 12 percent
  • Bananas — 12 percent
  • Soup — 11 percent
  • Alcohol — 10 percent
  • Ice cream — 10 percent
  • Ambien, Xanax or other sleeping pills — nine percent

While consuming food, drinks and other substances are common relaxation practices, rituals like sleeping with a fan or white noise machine (28 percent), taking a hot bath or shower before bed (26 percent) and reading a relaxing book (21 percent) also proved popular. Additionally, the  survey reports that one in 10 put away their phone or computer at least an hour before bed, but 28 percent sleep with their TV on all night.



How people wake up in the morning also varies. A full half of Americans (51 percent) say they wake up on their own each morning. Another third (37 percent) rely on an alarm clock app and a quarter (24 percent) get woken up by pets or kids. Almost 1 in 10 Americans (9 percent) say they don’t have a specific wake-up time.

A lucky two-thirds (66 percent) of Americans say they rarely or never have nightmares, while the remaining third (34 percent) have nightmares often or nightly. Apparently, politics play a role in how well Americans sleep: 23 percent of Americans claim they would sleep better if former President Obama were back in the Oval Office, but 19 percent report that they are not losing sleep over President Trump. About 9 % would sleep more soundly if Bernie Sanders were running the show, but only a minority would get more rest if Hillary Clinton (six percent), Oprah (five percent) or J.K. Rowling (three percent) were in office. About a third of Americans (32 percent) say their sleep would not improve regardless of who is in the White House.


 Sleep is a highly sought-after commodity in the U.S. Americans would give up a number of vices for a full, uninterrupted eight hours of quality sleep. Social media would be first to go (27 percent), followed by:

  • Chocolate — 21 percent
  • Streaming services or cable TV — 13 percent
  • Sex — 11 percent
  • Their fitness routine — 10 percent

A minority of Americans would even be willing to give up their job (eight percent), spouse (seven percent), pet (seven percent) or kids (five percent) in exchange for higher quality or a larger quantity of sleep. In all, almost three-quarters of Americans (73 percent) would be willing to give up something. More than half of Americans (59 percent) would give up their favorite food if it made them sleep poorly. Just as many (59 percent) have lied in order to sneak additional sleep time. And more than a third (35 percent) have feigned illness for the sake of a good lie-in. Lastly, 12 percent have put off sex by claiming a headache to get to bed earlier.


Sleep is highly valued in the United States and though some sleep rituals and aids might be irrational, the findings from this survey indicate that people will do and give up a multitude of activities to improve their sleep.

Visit Sleepcycle.com to learn more.