Stress, Pain and Money — Oh My!

Better Sleep Council research uncovers the factors that keep people awake and what helps them nod off

Sleep is a wonderful, revitalizing and sometimes elusive thing. What makes it easy for some people to snooze and difficult for others?

The Better Sleep Council, the consumer-education arm of the International Sleep Products Association, has identified several factors that impact sleep in its research survey, The State of America’s Sleep. The first report from the data revealed the best and worst sleepers in America. (Recap: Young women, in particular students and mothers, have the hardest time getting adequate rest. Male retirees, on the other hand, tend to report getting the most sleep. Read the full story, “The Best and Worst Sleepers in America.”) 

The second report digs into the factors that affect sleep. So, what’s keeping Americans awake? Four elements — stress, physical pain, personal finances and social isolation/loneliness — are the largest contributors.

General stress seems to be the leading cause of sleeplessness. According to the survey, people who rated their sleep as poor were nearly four times more likely to have been stressed in the two weeks prior to the survey. Women, in particular, seem to be more affected by stress than men. Among women who rated their sleep as poor, 33% had felt stress very often in the two weeks prior to the survey versus 20% of men.

Physical pain is a high second. People who rated their sleep as poor are two times more likely to have experienced pain when sitting and standing and 2.5 times more likely to have experienced pain when lying down than those who said their sleep was excellent.

In the realm of personal finances, those who said they weren’t sleeping well were 1.4 times more likely to live paycheck to paycheck than the champion sleepers. They also were 1.3 times more likely to be concerned about their own financial future. Again, women’s sleep was more likely to be affected by financial worries — 41% of women said they live paycheck to paycheck versus 27% of men.

An area that isn’t discussed as often when it comes to poor sleep is loneliness. According to the study, social isolation is a factor that leads to sleepless nights. Those who frequently wake up feeling tired in the morning are two times more likely to have difficulty in social situations and are 1.5 times more likely to report wanting to go out but not having anyone to go out with them.

While some circumstances hinder sleep, other factors, such as good finances and meaningful relationships, make it far easier to rest, the survey found.

Those who save for retirement or unforeseen medical expenses are two times more likely to rate their sleep as excellent. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, those who reported having enough money in the bank to buy whatever they want whenever they want it were 1.5 times more likely to be good sleepers.

And while having good relationships with family members is helpful, those who reported having deep friendships outside of family were 1.2 times more likely to have better rest.

“The State of America’s Sleep research is giving us an in-depth look on how Americans are really sleeping, which is unlike any survey or research project we’ve implemented in the past,” said Mary Helen Rogers, vice president of marketing and communications for the BSC. “By digging into this research and finding the particular pain points that impact America’s sleep for the worse, we can reinforce how a proper sleep environment can really improve their quality of sleep and ultimately give them the tools they need to change their sleep habits.”