BSC Research: The Best and Worst Sleepers in America

Better Sleep Council research finds that young women, especially mothers and students, are among the worst sleepers and male retirees are among the best

Infographic: The state of America's Sleep
Infographic: The State of America’s Sleep (click to enlarge)

The Better Sleep Council, the consumer education arm of the International Sleep Products Association, released its research findings from The State of America’s Sleep study, revealing that nearly six in 10 women are poor sleepers, compared with four in 10 men. When adding school and children into the equation, the incidence of poor sleep increased dramatically for women, but minimally impacted men’s sleep quality.

As part of May’s Better Sleep Month, the BSC launched a research study called The State of America’s Sleep, which sought to track America’s sleep quality over time, and its results unveiled the best and worst sleepers in America. Several common themes appeared. The worst sleepers tend to be under stress, particularly at work, financially or in their personal relationships:

Work environment.

  • Americans who are “under pressure at work” make up 44% of poor sleepers in the country.
  • According to BSC research, about 80% of adults who feel they work in a friendly environment, enjoy the people they work with and enjoy the work they do are excellent sleepers.
  • Additionally, excellent sleepers are 27% more likely to be valued at work, compared with poor sleepers.

Financial woes. Financially stressed adults don’t sleep well. Adults who are concerned about their financial future comprise 72% of poor sleepers, and those who live paycheck to paycheck represent 56% of poor sleepers.

Interpersonal relationships. The research found that meaningful relationships impact quality of sleep. Adults who agree that they have a great relationship with their spouse/partner represent 88% of excellent sleepers, compared with adults who are in difficult relationships, which are only 9% of excellent sleepers.

“As the guardians of America’s sleep, it’s our duty to provide ongoing resources for people so they understand the importance of a good night’s sleep,” said Mary Helen Rogers, vice president of marketing and communications for the BSC. “We launched The State of America’s Sleep study to see how Americans feel they are sleeping on an annual basis, so we can then assess elements that may or may not impact how they sleep. This research allows us to provide tips on changes people can make to improve their sleep habits, which directly aligns with our mission at the Better Sleep Council.”

Another surprising finding from the survey was the impact of the day’s news on Americans. Contrary to popular belief that the news is keeping people up at night, adults who agree that they enjoy watching/listening/reading the news every day comprise 64% of the best sleepers in America.

“These survey findings are a glimpse into the situations that impact Americans the most. Some of the research may seem surprising, but to clinicians in sleep medicine, it reflects what we see played out in our practice every day,” said Ellen Wermter, board-certified family nurse practitioner and BSC spokeswoman. “The bottom line is that habits surrounding sleep matter. Set yourself up for success by prioritizing proper rest. Break the stimulant-sedative cycle, exercise and give yourself adequate time to mentally wind down in order to better manage the anxiety-producing situations of life. A well-rested individual is more likely to be happy at work and in relationships, and to have the energy and drive to improve his or her current situation.” 


GENDER

Women represent 57% of poor sleepers in America and 42% of excellent sleepers.

Men represent 43% of poor sleepers and 58% of excellent sleepers


YOUNGER GENERATIONS

Adult Gen Zs, ages 18-22, represent 10% of poor adult sleepers and 5% of excellent adult sleepers.

• Millennials make up 34% of poor sleepers and 26% of excellent sleepers.


METHODOLOGY

2,000 surveys were fielded April 10-18 among a representative sample of U.S. adults (age 18+). Analysis was conducted to establish a Sleep Index that can be used to track America’s sleep quality over time. The index was used to create three groups — poor sleepers, average sleepers and excellent sleepers.



Worst Sleeper Persona

sleeping mom with her two childrenThere’s actually a tie for the worst sleeper in America.

According to personas the Better Sleep Council constructed using the survey data, Jessica is one of the worst sleepers. She’s a young mom in her early 30s. She is married and has two kids. In addition to being the primary caregiver/household manager in the family, she also works part time. With everything going on in her life, she almost never gets the recommended seven to eight hours sleep. And it often takes her more than 30 minutes to fall asleep, even when she can get to bed at a reasonable hour. Jessica often finds herself waking up in the night, sometimes because of the kids, sometimes because of concerns about finances, work or her relationships. When that happens, she often has trouble getting back to sleep. Often the dog sleeps in her bed, and sometimes one of the kids crawls in bed with her, as well. Needless to say, Jessica rarely feels rested when she gets up in the morning, and she often experiences aches and pains when she wakes up. She knows she needs to get more sleep, but she can’t seem to make it happen.

Jessica’s life is fraught with stress. She and her husband tend to live paycheck to paycheck, although they do try to save a little — mostly toward their young children’s college education, for future expenses and for vacations. But it’s never enough. Jessica and her husband have a challenging relationship — due to the stresses of raising children, limited resources and living overscheduled lives. Jessica doesn’t make it easier on herself when it comes to sleep. To unwind she often has a couple of drinks in the evening. She often eats right before bed, checks social media and email, and starts working on the next day’s task list – she goes to bed with things on her mind and her stomach. She rarely exercises, usually only a couple of hours a week — she figures that her job and having to chase the kids gives her the exercise she needs.

Virtually tied with Jessica as America’s worst sleeper is Emma. She’s a college student on the West Coast, working part time and, like Jessica, living paycheck to paycheck.

She has several roommates — who do the things college roommates do. Between school, work and her college activities, she’s often up late and up early — she hates early morning classes and rarely does well in them. Emma almost always feels tired, but she tends to shrug it off, telling herself she’s young and can handle it. Like Jessica, Emma is a late-night eater. Her bedtime routine usually includes checking social media and catching up on her favorite shows on her tablet.

Emma hates her job. She doesn’t get along with her boss or her co-workers. The work isn’t fulfilling, but it does pay the bills and helps her set aside a little money each week for things she likes to splurge on. Between work and school and always feeling tired, Emma needs caffeine to keep her going. Sometimes she has coffee or cola well into the evening.

PARENTS

Adults with children under 18 at home make up 34% of poor sleepers and 22% of excellent sleepers.

Additionally, 71% of women with children under 18 at home are poor sleepers vs. 56% of men with children at home.

Empty nesters or people without children represent 66% of poor sleepers and 78% of excellent sleepers.


PETS

Pet owners represent 70% of poor sleepers and 61% of excellent sleepers.

People who do not own a pet make up 30% of poor sleepers and 39% of excellent sleepers.


Sleepy young women with pillow and sleeping eye mask still on.STUDENTS

Students (age 18 and older) represent 7% of poor adult sleepers and 3% of excellent adult sleepers. While students represent a small percentage of poor sleepers, they are twice as likely to be poor rather than excellent sleepers.

Additionally, 80% of female students (age 18 and older) are poor sleepers, compared with 53% male students.


INCOME

Adults who earn lower income are poor sleepers. Those with an income under $25,000 represent 22% of poor sleepers and 17% of excellent sleepers.

The average income for poor sleepers is $65,000 and for excellent sleepers is $72,000.



Best Sleeper Persona

sleeping retireesThe best sleeper in America is Larry, a 70-something retiree. Larry and his wife are empty nesters, living in an upscale neighborhood in the suburbs in the Midwest. Larry almost always gets seven to eight hours of sleep and feels rested in the morning. He is relatively pain-free when he wakes up — especially for someone his age. Larry takes sleep very seriously. He rarely has a bedtime snack and avoids caffeine entirely. His bedtime routine includes reading — but no social media or email. Because of this, Larry’s usually asleep almost as soon as his head hits the pillow, and he rarely wakes up in the night.

Larry feels his life is fulfilling. He’s got a great relationship with his wife and the two of them have several close friends. He has several interests and hobbies he enjoys, including attending plays and concerts. He watches news on TV and is concerned about terrorism and immigration. However, it doesn’t affect his sleep. He does some light exercising, but nothing too strenuous. In fact, nothing in Larry’s life is very strenuous. He lives a relatively stress-free life.

(Persona is constructed based on the survey data.)

OLDER GENERATIONS

The Silent Generation represents 3% of poor sleepers and 8% of excellent sleepers. While the Silent Generation represents a small percentage of excellent sleepers, Silents are more than twice as likely to be excellent rather than poor sleepers.

Retired adults make up 16% of poor sleepers and 28% of excellent sleepers.

Boomers make up 22% of poor sleepers and 36% of excellent sleepers.