Everybody knows that American’s can’t sleep. Sure, they may be getting around eight hours a night – ish – but it takes them an hour just to fall asleep, with wakeups multiple times a night, according to new research from Iowa State University. The study is published in the scientific journal Sleep Health.
The study’s biggest shocker: did you know that five million more Americans are struggling with poor quality sleep today than they were five years ago?
Researchers analyzed collected data from the Center for Disease Control on 165,000 Americans between 2013-2017. Over that five-year time period, adults reporting that their problems falling asleep – at least one day per week – increased by 1.43%. Adults with issues staying asleep at least one day per week increased by 2.70%.
To put those percentages in perspective based on 2018 population estimates, researchers say that those numbers can be extrapolated to mean that about five million more Americans are struggling with crappy today than they were five years ago.
Researchers aren’t quite sure what’s causing all this poor sleep, but they have a hunch that it’s the plethora of tech devices we now keep in the bedroom, often at an arm’s reach. Previous research among teens showed that there was a “correlation between smartphone use and insufficient sleep among teens,” said lead author Garrett Hisler, in a release. “If we’re on our phone in the middle of the night, that can make it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep.”
It’s not all about the duration of sleep, said head researcher Zlatan Krizan, a professor of psychology at ISU. “Indeed, how long we sleep is important, but how well we sleep and how we feel about our sleep is important in its own right.”
Sleep, he said, “seems essential to being human. We can’t seem to think or even love properly without sleep.”
We should care about the quality of our sleep not only because it makes us feel rested, but because bad sleepers are often left vulnerable to serious health problems like the increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
“We know that how well people sleep is generally very reflective of people’s health and may be an indicator of other conditions,” Krizan said. “If we want a full picture of the population’s health, it’s important to measure and track these changes in sleep trends over time.”
Diana Muranovic, a senior studying biology at Iowa State, also contributed to this research.