- West Virginians, Hawaiians, and Alabamians get the least sleep in the US.
- Millennials get the least sleep of any generation.
- Only 59% of involuntarily unemployed respondents reported getting at least seven hours of sleep compared to 68% of those who were employed.
Surprising Factors May Impact the Amount of Sleep You Get
Do you feel well rested? According to research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 1 in 3 Americans are sleep deprived, and medical researchers have long noted the detrimental side effects of sleep deprivation, from irritability to memory issues. But the causes of your tiredness may be outside your control. Data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) show that characteristics such as race and income level play a role in how much sleep you get each night.
But there are some factors within your control to ensure you’re getting your best sleep possible. After analyzing data from BRFSS,we were able to clearly visualize and define how factors ranging from location to income, employment status, and even race may affect sleep quality. To find out exactly who is sleeping well (and who isn’t), keep reading.
Longest Sleeps, by Demographic
To begin, we looked at different demographic groups, and found surprising differences in how immutable characteristics such as age and race impacted the likelihood of respondents getting enough sleep. Additionally, income level played a notably consistent role in hours of sleep.
Of all generations, millennials are getting the least sleep. The American Psychological Association has suggested that millennials are also the most “stressed out” generation, which greatly impacts their ability to fall asleep. In turn, this lack of sleep causes additional stress, and an inescapable vicious circle. Causes that particularly affect this age group include exposure to technology before bed, an ingrained tendency to work side gigs in addition to full-time careers, and financial worries associated with coming of age during the 2008 recession.
Across all generations, financial worries proved to have a greater negative impact on sleep than age itself, with those who earned less than $15,000 annually getting even less sleep than millennials. Meanwhile, nearly three-quarters of high earners (those who earn more than $50K) managed to get seven or more hours of sleep each night.
The echoes of racial injustice in the U.S. were echoed in our sleep data as well. White Americans were more likely to achieve seven-plus hours of sleep each night than any other race in the country, most noticeably more than Black Americans. Here’s the breakdown: 71% of white Americans sleep seven or more hours, compared to 68% of Hispanic Americans, 66% of Asian Americans, 64% of American Indians and Alaska Natives, and just 58% of Black Americans.
Locating the Best Sleep
When we started to visualize the location of well-slept respondents, a few states clearly stood out. Whether people owned or rented their home—and the number of children they shared it with—clearly affected sleep patterns as well.
Perhaps the driving factor behind that famous Midwest kindness is a solid night’s sleep. The vast majority of residents in states such as South Dakota and Minnesota reported getting more than seven hours of sleep per night. Perhaps this is because many of these states also enjoy better air quality, which has been shown to contribute to increased sleep duration.
States that slept poorly, however, had less in common and were much more spread out in terms of location and climate. Hawaii, West Virginia, and Alabama took the bottom three places in terms of sleep quantity, with only 63% to 64% of their residents able to attain seven hours or more of sleep each night. That said, the comparison between renters and owners is still stark, and may point again to the trend of being able to get more sleep when financially better off.
Furthermore, when looking at the presence of children in the home, 36% of respondents were not getting enough sleep at night. No difference was found between moms and dads; regardless of gender, parents reported getting less sleep across the board.
Sleeping with and without a Job
With so many financial trends surfacing with regards to a good night’s rest, we decided to compile data on employment and sleep as well. This next asset compares sleep quantity by employment status as well as by employee generation and gender.
If you’re thinking of joining the Great Resignation, “funemployment” really does appear as enjoyable as it sounds. In recent months, the “quit rate”, or share of workers who leave voluntarily, has reached an all-time high. Evidently, the experience has been a good one for many of these people. Those who were voluntarily unemployed were sleeping substantially better than those who were employed and those who were unemployed— but not by choice. Further breakdowns showed that among those who were unemployed, respondents who had been out of work for more than a year were three percentage points less likely to report getting an average of seven hours of sleep.
Among those that are still employed, millennials were again sleeping the worst. Baby boomers, on the other hand, had a 3 in 4 chance of achieving seven or more hours of sleep each night. That said, the CDC does recommend that a person may need closer to nine daily hours of sleep after the age of 60. Gender did not appear to have any significant impact on the likelihood of getting the recommended amount of sleep.
Mental and Physical Health
With sleep playing such an important role in maintaining good health, we next analyzed the data to find out how both mental and physical health can impact sleep.
Poor mental health generally proved more detrimental to sleep duration than poor physical health, though both certainly took a toll. As previously mentioned, more than a third of Americans are currently having trouble sleeping—but that number skyrockets to more than half when focusing on those who typically experience 16 or more poor mental health days per month. For those who don’t experience any poor mental health days, the percentage of those getting insufficient sleep drops to just 26%.
Unfortunately, mental health has been hit hard since the onset of the pandemic. Four in 10 U.S. adults now exhibit symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorders, compared to just 1 in 10 in 2019. The virus itself has also impacted the physical health of many, including long term ailments such as continued loss of taste and smell, and a persistent cough.
Lifestyle of a Good Sleeper
Our study concludes with a look into the lifestyle data available from the BRFSS. We compared and contrasted the average sleep duration of those who exercise regularly, and those who smoke cigarettes, to get a clearer insight.
While you may not be able to afford to join the Great Resignation to improve your sleep, exercise is completely free, and offered our respondents a much higher likelihood of sleeping well. Those who completed physical activity within the past 30 days had a 71% chance of getting at least seven hours of sleep per night. It’s important to note that people in all locations and of all income levels, races, and genders have access to physical activity—things like walking, YouTube exercise videos, or simple stretches are available to most.
Smoking was another lifestyle factor that heavily influenced a person’s ability to sleep for long hours. Nearly three-quarters of those who had never smoked, or had quit smoking, were able to sleep for at least seven hours. Those who smoked occasionally or every day, however, saw their likelihood of sleeping seven hours drop by 10 to 14 percentage points.
Sleeping Better Despite the Circumstances
While many Americans experience chronic sleep deprivation, data shows that not all hope (or sleep) is lost. Even in the height of the pandemic, some respondents were able to sleep well. Unfortunately, these great nights of sleep were often reserved for people in particular locations, or unchangeable demographics, like race. That said, exercise and abstaining from cigarettes were two lifestyle habits that we found could help to counter poor sleeping trends. They are also fortunately options that are available to everyone, though it may be easier said than done to implement them.
Another option that is available and affordable for everyone is freely provided research like this. Simply knowing what needs to be done is an incredible start. PlushBeds.com analyzed the sleep data provided here, but also continuously researches the best mattresses, pillows, and bedding for you. Moreover, by simply providing your email, you can unlock a $100 discount code. To get on your way to your next great sleep, head to PlushBeds.com today.
Methodology and Limitations
To complete this study, we used 397,267 responses from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System for 2020. Of these respondents 215,170 were women, and 182,097 were men. Additionally, 135,362 were baby boomers or older, 159,224 were Gen Xers, 69,259 were millennials, 25,473 were Gen Zers, and 7,949 did not give their age. For race/ethnicity breakdowns, there were 6,813 American Indian and Alaska Native respondents, 10,158 Asian respondents, 29,668 Black respondents, 35,945 Hispanic respondents, 300,841 white respondents, and 13,842 respondents of a race not listed.
Fair Use Statement
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