More and more Americans are getting less shuteye than they require for a healthy life. According to a survey of nearly 400,000 nationals, 32.9% of respondents say that they sleep six hours or less, up from 28.6% in 2017. This growing trend is particularly visible among African-American and Hispanic respondents.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults get between seven and nine hours of sleep a night. Each person will require a different number of hours of sleep to feel rested in the morning, depending on diet, genetics, physical and mental exertion, stress, and other lifestyle factors. For most of us, though, seven hours is the bare minimum. But for a lot of people in the United States, seven hours seems out of grasp.
According to researchers, “short sleep” (six or fewer hours of sleep in a 24-hour period) increased by 4% between 2012 and 2017.
“That might not sound like a lot, but that’s a huge number of adults,” Denny Sanford, an assistant professor at Arizona State University and lead author of the new study, said in a statement. “That’s like the population of New York City, or two Phoenixes, who are sleeping worse over four years.”
As reported in the journal Sleep, more Americans are going without proper sleep than ever — and for some demographics, this situation is extremely widespread. In 2017, 40.9% of African-Americans, 32.9%of Hispanics and 30.9% of Caucasians said they typically slept less than six hours per night. That’s an uptick of 6.5% amongst African-Americans and 7% amongst Hispanics relative to 2004. Meanwhile, the number of Caucasian short-sleepers increased by only 2%.
It’s not clear what triggered this race discrepancy, but researchers at Arizona State University, who led the study, have a few hunches. One of them is that “Blacks and Hispanics are already generally less healthy than white Americans,” which is known to influence poor sleep. Other factors include “an increase in race-related discrimination, police violence and, focus on deportation from 2013 to 2017.”
Generally speaking, Americans are also more stressed than they ever were and like to use their smartphones before bed. When we’re stressed, the mind plays a continuous loop of worries that can be challenging to shut off. What’s more, the muscles tense and the heart beats faster under stress, both of which keep the body from reaching the required level of relaxation. Smartphones, on the other hand, emit blue light which inhibits the production of melatonin, keeping us awake and messing with our natural sleep cycles.
In order to sleep better (and faster), researchers recommend ditching your phone or TV before bed, avoiding over-eating prior to bedtime, and making sure the bed is in a place not associated with daytime activities (i.e. your living room).