Find out why and how to solve sleep woes in your own life.
Two newly released polls are providing insights on consumer sleeping habits. The key takeaway? Americans are getting more sleep but quality has worsened. The first poll was conducted by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) and the second is a collaboration between Mattress Firm and SleepScore Labs. Both polls reveal quite a bit about behaviors around sleep and where there is room for improvement. In particular, the one from Mattress Firm offers eye-opening insights into the impact of the pandemic on sleep.
NSF’s Poll: An Overview
The NSF’s 2022 Sleep in America Poll is one of the longest running records capturing Americans’ perceptions, attitudes and behaviors around sleep. Each year the Sleep in America poll explores attitudes on sleep and related topics, fielded concurrently with National Sleep Foundation’s quarterly Sleep Health Index (SHI). The SHI is a validated gauge of the nation’s sleep health in three domains: sleep quality, sleep duration and disordered sleep. In Q4 2021, the score was 77 on a 0-100 scale, similar to its long term average in results since 2016. The organization gathered survey results from a random national sample of 1,082 adults during the period of Nov. 5-15, 2021. Results have a margin of sampling error of 3.2 points for the full quarterly sample. Error margins are larger for subgroups.
This year’s results show that many Americans are not getting bright light exposure during the day and are looking at screens around bedtime. In addition, many fall short of recommendations for exercise and take meals at inconsistent times.
Here are some of the key results:
- Nearly 50% of Americans say they aren’t exposed to the recommended levels of bright light when indoors in the morning and afternoon.
- More than a third of Americans fall short of CDC’s recommendations for moderate or vigorous activity, another key factor in ensuring a sound sleep.
- 4 in 10 Americans eat meals at inconsistent times, making it more difficult for their bodies to regulate the sleep/wake process.
- More than half of Americans indulge in screen time within an hour before bed or even while in bed.
Mattress Firm x SleepScore Labs Report: An Overview
This year marks Mattress Firm’s first annual sleep study release. The company is calling it Sleep Uncovered. The study, created in partnership with SleepScore Labs, utilizes proprietary data from over 3.5 million nights of sleep, survey insights and primary research. The report also includes future forecasts from the Institute for the Future (IFTF), to reveal deeper insights on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on America’s sleep quality.
SleepScore Labs analyzed objective and self-reported sleep data from 134,885 U.S. adults before and during the COVID-19 pandemic and found that on average, Americans reported a noticeable change in sleep quality rather than duration. Additionally, SleepScore Labs surveyed more than 2,700 U.S. adults, asking questions about pre- and post-pandemic lifestyle and sleep habits. The report details how sleep duration and quality were impacted by several factors including race, parenting status, socioeconomic factors, occupation and more.
As remote work and learning became the new normal, people established more consistent sleep schedules from spending more time at home. Additionally, the Sleep Uncovered study reveals that while technology can be one of the biggest disruptions of sleep, it may also present opportunities for sleep improvement.
Here are a few key findings:
- 80% of respondents reported that their sleep quality decreased during the pandemic.
- Only 14% of respondents rated their sleep quality as satisfactory.
- 7% of U.S. adults reported using technology devices in bed “most days” or “every day” during the pandemic. Binging on entertainment and “doomscrolling” became cultural norms, and nearly 1 in 3 respondents admitted that using technology before bed contributed to their poor rest “often” or “always” during the pandemic.
- 50% of Americans said they used mindfulness and/or stress-relief strategies at least some of the time, a 12% increase from before the pandemic.
- U.S. adults reported experiencing more difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep, and felt less likely to feel rested in 2022 compared to 2020; though these changes were not evenly distributed.
To identify the primary shifts in sleep behavior and culture triggered by the pandemic, Sleep.com commissioned IFTF to explore its impact on sleep quality. Using data from more than 3.5 million nights of sleep, IFTF analyzed academic and clinical literature in conjunction with a comprehensive horizon scan. These findings revealed four scenarios that explored how, where, and how well we will sleep in the future.
Reflections + What’s Next
While both polls brought different insights into the larger conversation around sleep health, decreased sleep quality was pretty universal. The two polls also show that technology and less consistent routines contributed to sleep quality. The NSF focused a little bit more on during the day activities like exercise and light exposure, while the report from Mattress Firm is very focused on how the pandemic played a role in this year’s sleep trends.
Thankfully there are numerous ways that Americans can go about improving their sleep:
- Increase exposure to bright light upon waking and throughout the afternoon.
- Help regulate your body’s sleep/wake process by eating meals at consistent times during the day and avoiding heavy meals 2-3 hours before bed.
- Avoid screen time at least one hour before bed.
- Make your bedroom a sleep-friendly space by keeping it cool, dark and quiet.
- Follow recommended guidelines on proper exercise to improve overall health and your sleep. Aim for at least 20 minutes of exercise a day.
- Get the recommended hours of sleep per night. The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7-9 hours for most adults.
- Stop doomscrolling already!
- Recognize that some things are out of our control. All we can do is make good choices for ourselves and our families.
While these insights and subsequent suggestions are helpful, it’s also important to recognize that we are all living through trying times—and it’s no surprise that it’s impacting our sleep and mental health. Avoid making improving your sleep feel like another project on the to-do list; don’t let it be a chore or stressor. Treat your sleep time as self-care, time to luxuriate and recharge. And consider investing in high-quality sleep products to help support your efforts.