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How stress affects the way Americans sleep

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March 9, 2021
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This story originally appeared on Sunday Citizen and was produced and distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.

How stress affects the way Americans sleep

A good night’s sleep can help offer a clear perspective and fresh start in the morning, but unfortunately, sleep doesn’t always come easy for Americans.

Sunday Citizen conducted an eight-question survey from Feb. 4–8, 2021 that asked 1,000 respondents about their sleep and how stress affects it.

Stress and sleep are intrinsically linked: High levels of stress can negatively impact sleep, just as, in a cruel twist of irony, a lack of sleep can increase stress levels. To improve sleep, experts recommend following a strict and consistent bedtime routine each day, meaning going to sleep and waking every day at the same time and avoiding impromptu naps in the middle of the day, even if you’re tired. Blue light can get in the way of rest, so it is also best to limit screen time before bed and avoid scrolling through feeds as you’re trying to fall asleep. Exercising earlier in the day, but not too close to bedtime, can improve sleep quality, as well. The Sleep Foundation recommends getting out of bed if you’re stressed about not falling asleep, as staying in bed when you’re frustrated can be counterproductive. Sometimes a change of environment and a brief calming activity, such as meditation or listening to relaxing music, can prepare the mind to return to the pillow.

While the recommended duration of sleep per day varies from person to person depending on age and other lifestyle factors, experts generally recommend the average adult gets around 7 to 9 hours of sleep each day. Yet, only 52.2% of Sunday Citizen’s survey respondents report they achieve that number and a considerable amount get less than 6 hours of sleep.

Continue reading to find out how your stress and sleep habits compare to those of other Americans.

42% of Americans usually sleep 6 hours or less per night

- Question: On average, how many hours do you sleep per night?
--- less than 6 hours: 18.3%
--- 6 hours: 23.7%
--- 7 hours: 26.9%
--- 8 hours: 21.5%
--- 9 hours: 3.8%
--- 10 hours: 2.3%
--- greater than 10 hours: 3.6%

68% of Americans have at least one night a week where they get less than 7 hours of sleep

- Question: How many nights per week do you get less than 7 hours of sleep?
--- None: 18.7%
--- Some (1-3 nights per week): 45.2%
--- Most (4-6 nights per week): 22.9%
--- All (7 nights per week): 13.2%

Over 50% of Americans occasionally have disrupted sleep

- Question: What is the quality of your sleep usually like? (In this case, "disrupted" means you wake up in the middle of the night or have trouble falling asleep)
--- High (consistent, uninterrupted sleep): 24.5%
--- Medium (occasionally disrupted sleep): 57.2%
--- Low (constantly disrupted sleep): 18.2%

Only 14% of Americans usually wake up feeling well-rested every day of the week

- Question: How many days do you wake up feeling like you had enough sleep?
--- None: 16.8%
--- Some (1-3 days per week): 35.7%
--- Most (4-6 days per week): 33.6%
--- All (7 days per week): 13.8%

Most Americans watch a TV show or movie to help them fall asleep

- Question: What helps you fall asleep? (select all that apply)
--- Watching TV show or movie: 36.0%
--- Total darkness: 29.9%
--- Reading: 28.3%
--- Total quiet: 27.4%
--- Listening to music: 12.4%
--- Exercising before bed: 4.3%
--- Other: 1.4% (answers include listening to audio books, taking medication or melatonin, and white noise)

35% of Americans are stressed about family or relationships when they can't sleep

- Question: When you have trouble falling asleep due to stress, what’s typically bothering you? (select all that apply)
--- Family or relationships: 35.0%
--- Work or education: 34.3%
--- Money/finances: 27.8%
--- News/politics: 21.8%
--- Health: 17.4%
--- Household responsibilities (such as chores): 16.7%
--- Nothing/I am not stressed: 1.6%
--- Not sure: 0.7%
--- Mental illness: 0.2%

Stress has caused 40% of Americans to wake up too early or in the middle of the night

- Question: In the past month, what effects has stress had on your sleep? (select all that apply)
--- Waking up too early or in the middle of the night: 40.4%
--- Trouble falling asleep: 36.7%
--- No effects or not applicable to me: 25.5%
--- Bad dreams: 17.9%
--- Putting off sleep to do tasks: 14.6%
--- Oversleeping: 11.7%

Most Americans have little to no stressful dreams

- Question: In a typical month, how often are your dreams about something stressful?
--- Almost never: 37.7%
--- About half the time: 22.6%
--- Most of the time: 6.7%
--- Virtually always: 5.3%
--- Not sure: 27.7%

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