Americans in 2016 got about 18 minutes more sleep per weeknight than they did in 2003, according to a study published in the journal Sleep—but researchers say that many people still didn't get the sleep they need, Niraj Chokshi writes for the New York Times.
About the study
For the study, researchers reviewed data from 2003 through 2016 on more than 180,000 people ages 15 and older who participated in the American Time Use survey collected by the U.S. Census Bureau. The sample excluded active military members, prisoners, and nursing home residents.
The researchers found that Americans in 2016 were getting an average of 18 minutes more sleep per weeknight, and 50 seconds more sleep per weekend night, than they did in 2003.
On average, according to the researchers, Americans slept more than eight hours on weeknights and more than nine hours on weekend nights. But many people slept much less: More than a third of Americans got fewer than seven hours of sleep, which CDC considers to be insufficient sleep.
The researchers noted that although they found statistically significant sleep gains in the population at large, not everyone benefited. In particular, people who aren't in the labor force didn't report any significant gains in sleep.
Why we're sleeping more
To explain the trend, researchers gave partial credit to less time spent on reading and television before bed.
According to the study, Americans added around 30 seconds of television watching to their average weekday. Even so, they watched TV less frequently before bed, and so they got to bed an average of 66 seconds earlier each year over the 13-year span of the study.
Americans also dedicated less time to commuting to work and school, as well as eating and drinking, housework, and consumer purchases, Chokshi writes—all of which contributed to their ability to go to bed earlier.
How longer sleep promotes better health
Getting more sleep has been shown to have major health benefits, Chokshi writes. Mathias Basner, an associate professor of sleep and chronobiology in psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania and the lead author on the study, said, "If we only got more sleep, we would then see that we actually perform better and would probably be more creative and more productive during the day."
Chokshi notes that research shows a link between poor sleep and numerous health problems, such as weight gain, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and difficulties focusing.
To sleep better, experts recommend limiting your screen time before going to bed, avoiding naps, creating a relaxing environment, and creating a consistent routine. "When you enter the bedroom, it should be a sign for your body that it's time to go to bed," said Basner (Chokshi, New York Times, 1/29).
Understand the wellness spectrum
Programs aimed at promoting healthy habits among employees are likely to lead to improved employee engagement and productivity—but they're unlikely to reduce the total cost of care. To do that, you'll need to take a population health approach.