Americans Are Sleeping Less Than They Were 13 Years Ago

Technology use and stress could be contributing to the short-sleep trend

Nearly one-third of American adults sleep less than six hours each night, a broad new survey shows.

Among nearly 400,000 respondents to the annual National Health Interview Survey, 32.9 percent reported this short sleep in 2017 — up from 28.6 percent in 2004 when researchers began noticing a slight drop in sleep time. That’s a 15 percent increase representing “more than 9 million people, which is about the population of New York City,” says coauthor Connor Sheehan, a sociologist at Arizona State University in Tempe.

Analysis of the annual survey results — accounting for the U.S. population’s age distribution as well as respondents’ marital status, income, employment and lifestyle — suggests people have been sleeping significantly less from 2013 onward, especially black adults, the researchers report online November 17 in Sleep. In 2017, 40.9 percent of black Americans were likely to report short sleep, as were 30.9 percent of whites and 32.9 percent of Hispanics, the researchers calculate.

This is the first study showing self-reported sleep declining among minorities over time, says Mercedes Carnethon, an epidemiologist at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago who was not involved in the study.

Seven hours or more per night is the recommended sleep time, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society. Not getting enough sleep can increase the risk of accidents or of developing conditions such as obesity and diabetes.

Respondents could be sleeping even less than what they reported, the study authors say, since people tend to overestimate the number of hours they sleep. The study did not attempt to explain why some people were sleeping less now than they were 13 years ago, though the researchers suggest stress could be a factor.

The overuse of certain technology, such as cellphones, could also be playing a role. The number of adults owning a smartphone more than doubled in the last decade. Overuse of these devices with attention-seeking screens has been linked to poor sleep and more stress (SN Online: 1/23/17).

“Staring at a bright smartphone screen and getting anxious news is definitely not going to help you go to bed,” Sheehan says.

Originally found on


Mattress Guidelines for Sleep Comfort

The right mattress can help provide a good night’s sleep, leading to feelings of rest and refreshment upon waking up.

Sleeping is the only time the muscles, ligaments, and other structures in the spine can completely relax. With a back injury or disorder, optimal sleep is especially important to the healing process.

This article outlines a number of useful guidelines for selecting a mattress or bed—as well as recommendations for sleep positions and use of pillows—for a number of specific back conditions.

The Best Mattress Is a Personal Choice

Research points to both a significant reduction in chronic lower back pain and improvement in sleep quality from using a medium-firm mattress. Yet, research regarding mattress firmness is not extensive, leaving mattress firmness largely a matter of personal preference.

If a mattress is more than 5-7 years old, or if a different mattress is found to yield a better sleep experience, it is likely time to consider a replacement. Medical research studies show that participants switching from an old mattress to a new one reported a reduction in back pain and improvement in sleep quality.

No single type of mattress or bed works well for everyone, and there is no best kind of mattress for back problems. Likewise, there is no consensus on an ideal sleep position. All of this is due to several factors:

    • There are numerous underlying causes of back problems, and different underlying causes may respond better to specific types of beds, mattresses, and sleep positions.
    • Back pain can have numerous contributing factors, and so a specific sleeping position may alleviate one contributing factor but exacerbate another.
    • Sleeping preferences may be unrelated to the quality and support of a mattress. For example, some people prefer a mattress that keeps cool in order to prevent becoming uncomfortably warm at night.

Originally found on


How Soothing Music Can Help You Sleep Better

Do you find classical music a huge snooze fest? Don’t feel bad – you’re supposed to. Discover the perfect soundtrack for slumber, orchestrated by Lissa Coffey.

There’s no doubt that sleep has an impact on your overall health and well-being – either for the good or the bad. There’s no better time than the present to make quality, restorative sleep a priority in your life and start seeing the positive impact.

Since ancient times, in regions all around the world, babies have been lulled to sleep with sweet, repetitive melodies known as lullabies. Soothing music is not just good for infants, it’s good for everyone. The slow tempo can help decrease the heart rate and, in turn, lower blood pressure – which is good, because a rapid heart rate can disturb sleep. Music has the power to calm the mind and reduce the effects of stress on the body. It can be relaxing, even hypnotic, putting us in the perfect state of mind to drift off into a deep sleep.

Studies have found that music with no defined melody and minimal fluctuations in volume is particularly good for helping you fall asleep. Instrumental music that is string-instrument based, with little or no horns and drums, can lower anxiety and bring on drowsiness. Classical music works great, as does New Age, Native American or Celtic music.

We’ve linked a few pieces you might want to add to your sleep playlist:

  • The British Academy of Sound Therapy says that the most perfect song to put a person to sleep is called “Weightless.” The Academy collaborated with the Manchester band Marconi Union to produce this relaxing song. Because there is no repeated melody, the brain doesn’t try to predict the next sounds coming. According to research from Mindlab International, “Weightless” reduces anxiety by 65%. There is an 8-minute version, an extended 30-minute version, and a much longer 10-hour version. (YouTube video:
  • “Reverie” is French for “dream,” and this classical piece was composed by Debussy early in his career. The beautiful piano sounds are gentle and meditative. (YouTube video:
  • The first movement of Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” is a masterful piece, hauntingly played on the piano. As the name suggests, this music is meant to be played at night, to soothe the soul after a long day. (YouTube video:
  • This New Age music piece is specifically created to induce delta waves in the brain to help us ease into sleep. And it continues to play for 8 hours! (YouTube video:
  • Billy Joel wrote “Lullabye – (Goodnight, My Angel)” in 1993, inspired by his daughter. (YouTube video:
  • Sheryl Crow wrote this lullaby for her son Wyatt. (YouTube video:
  • This relaxing Celtic music is played with harp and flute, and it’s dreamy and soothing. (YouTube video:
  • Two Native American flutes are featured on this instrumental piece composed by Peder B. Helland. (YouTube video:

While you’re deciding whether or not to add the soothing sounds of Celtic flutes to your playlist, consider that listening to soft music before sleep blocks out external noises, like traffic, and internal distractions, like tinnitus. The most important factor in finding music to help you sleep is to choose music that you like, that helps you to feel relaxed and comfortable.

Originally found on



5 Tips for Picking the Perfect Mattress

Are you one of the 60 million Americans suffering from chronic or occasional sleep problems?

According to the Better Sleep Council, if you’re sleeping on a bed that sags, has lumps or is more than 5 to 7 years old, or you wake up with aches and pains, it may be time for a new one. Shopping for the right mattress can be challenging. It’s difficult to comparison shop, and the choices can be overwhelming.

These tips can help you navigate the process:

1. Size matters

If you’re sharing a bed, consider buying a queen- or king-sized mattress. A healthy person moves 40 to 60 times a night and makes lots of full-body turns. For sound sleep, you need freedom of motion.

2. Look “under the hood”

Innerspring and solid foam mattresses, and alternatives such as adjustables, hybrids or futons, offer a wide range of sleeping sensations and “feels.” Ask the salesperson to explain the different styles and how they compare in terms of comfort, support, durability and performance.

3. Test-drive different models

Wear comfortable clothes and shoes you can easily slip off; lying down is the only way to determine what feels right for you. Compare different firmness levels and styles within your budget. Your mattress and foundation should support all of your body’s pressure points (check your alignment in a good standing posture). Beyond that, firmness is a personal choice.

4. Find a reputable dealer

Ask friends and family for referrals. If you don’t feel your salesperson is knowledgeable or helpful, go to another store. If you’re buying a mattress online, be sure to read the reviews, carefully check return and shipping policies and be certain there’s customer support, should a problem arise. Do they ensure that your satisfaction is guaranteed without extra costs and hassles?

5. Be sure it contains certified foam

A growing number of consumers want assurance that the flexible polyurethane foam in their bedding is certified. Certified foams are low VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) for indoor air quality and made without PBDEs, TDCPP or TCEP (“Tris”) flame retardants, ozone depleters, formaldehyde, lead, mercury or other heavy metals and phthalates regulated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

You spend close to one-third of each day on your mattress. Taking the time to find just the right one can really pay off. View it as an investment in the deep, restful sleep you need to look and feel your best every day.

Originally found on

Bribed to Sleep

Students in a Baylor University class weren’t sleeping enough. Their professor offered them extra credit if they got eight hours of sleep or more — and they performed better on final exams than their peers.

A few years ago, when Michael Scullin started teaching a class on sleep at Baylor University, he noticed a frustrating trend: his students were learning how detrimental sleep deprivation could be, but they never changed their habits. Many slept only five hours a night.

Scullin, director of Baylor’s Sleep Neuroscience and Cognition Laboratory and assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience, took it a bit personally, he said half-jokingly in an interview.

And so he issued a challenge.

If, during the week of final exams, his students could sleep for at least eight hours a night, he would give them extra credit points on the test, amounting to about 1 percent of their overall class grade. They would wear devices to bed similar to a Fitbit — but far more accurate in judging sleep time, Scullin said.

Overall, 24 students in two of the classes tried it out — and performed better on the exams than their classmates who did not take the challenge, even discounting the extra credit they might have earned. This indicates that even though some students think they should cram for finals, staying up to all hours and studying, a better strategy for students likely is to sleep more.

“If you provide a really strong incentive, people will change their behavior,” Scullin said.

The results of Scullin’s study have been recently published in two journals: The Teaching of Psychology and, when a class of interior design students tried the challenge, the Journal of Interior Design.

Scullin first tried two iterations of the study. In the first, he offered 18 students the chance to receive the extra credit, but with a catch: if they slept fewer than seven hours during the finals week, five days total in the challenge, they would lose points on the exam.

Only eight students decided to participate because of the penalty, which was put in to discourage “yo-yo” sleeping — going to bed in short spurts and then rebounding.

In the second version of the study, Scullin removed the drawback, and all 16 students in the class participated.

But in both versions, the students who ended up completing the challenge scored better on the exams than those who did not, or those who had opted out. Students who succeeded in getting eight full hours of sleep earned nearly five points more on the exam than those who didn’t (not counting the extra credit).

One student who had a D-plus grade in the class before the final exam but completed the challenge reported back that it was the “first time my brain worked while taking an exam.”

The study was replicated with students who weren’t in the sleep class — in the interior design program — and the results were the same: they performed better on their test.

“Some fields might find it unprofessional, but for many years, in design, sacrificing sleep was viewed as a rite of passage. That’s something we’re trying to change,” Elise King, assistant professor of interior design, who ran the study in the interior design classes, said in a statement. “Even during stressful deadline weeks, students can maintain healthy sleep habits.”

Scullin said that when he was experimenting with his class, the students reported that only about 15 percent of them were meeting the recommended minimum of seven hours of sleep per night. But the benefits of getting a proper night’s sleep are innumerable, he said: better memory, better mood, better health, Scullin said.

Because they have such autonomy, college students tend to spread their work out over longer periods, maybe 19 hours in a 24-hour day, and cram sleep in when they can, Scullin said. But if they were to treat academics more like a nine-to-five job, tapering off in the evenings and heading to bed sooner, they might be more successful academically.

Socializing means that some students won’t go to bed until 2 or 3 a.m., Scullin said. Students, and society generally, also thinks that insomnia is inherent, something that can’t be changed through behavior, but as this study finds, Scullin said, with the proper motivation people can fall into better sleep habits.

For the next round of the study, Scullin will be grouping students and each of them will have to encourage others in the group to follow the schedule more — and if they fail, then they’ll earn fewer points. Scullin is hopeful that this will inspire students and create more of a “culture” around better sleep.

“Students say, ‘There’s nothing I can do about it,’” Scullin said. “There’s quite a lot you can do it about it, and the first-line treatment is cognitive behavioral therapy, basically just the way you think about sleep and your relationship with sleep.”

Originally found on

Sleep Texting Is Real, And You May Be Doing It

People are known to walk, talk, and eat while sleeping. Now, there is sleep texting.

A new study from Villanova University found that the habit of using smartphones to message friends while still asleep — and having no memory of doing it — is a growing technology trend among adolescents and young adults. The paper, “Interrupted sleep: College students sleeping with technology,” was published in the Journal of American College Health.

“They are intimately attached to their phones,” said Elizabeth B. Dowdell, professor of nursing at Villanova University and the lead author of the study. Adolescents and young adults can average 60 to 100 text messages a day, she said.

While sleepwalking comes from the body’s internal signals, texting while sleeping is usually prompted by external sounds, Dowdell said.

It’s the buzz, beep, or tweet that makes the person automatically reach for the phone. That sound gives the person a sense of happiness, she said.

The researchers interviewed 372 students with an average age of 19.7 years at two Northeast colleges — 75 percent were women, 25 percent men. All of the participants had a smartphone and 93 percent reported keeping the phone with them at night. One-third of respondents reported that they answered a phone call while they were asleep. Twenty-five percent of the students admitted they texted while asleep. Of those, 86 percent were women, the study found.

Men, the researchers discovered, used their phones differently.

While women in the study were more likely to keep their phone in their bed, men were more likely to keep their phone next to their bed.

One student resorted to wearing mittens to bed to prevent sleep texting, Dowdell said.

The text messages that were sent are more embarrassing than dangerous, researchers found.

“For most of them it is really silly,” said Dowdell, as they are texting friends or peers, not bosses or coworkers.

Just search #Sleeptexting on Twitter or Instagram and you are likely to find some recent examples.

11 Tricks for Waking Up Earlier in the Morning

When ‘Rise and Shine’ Is Easier Said Than Done

Lots of people set the alarm with the best of intentions, knowing that’s the time they need to get up to meet the day’s demands. But then the alarm clock seems to ring way before they’re ready to rise, so they’re hitting snooze and, eventually, running late. Something’s got to give.

The key lies inside your body. “An important factor in being able to wake up easily at the desired time in the morning is the timing of one’s circadian rhythm, or ‘body clock,'” says sleep researcher Leon C. Lack, PhD, professor emeritus in the school of psychology at Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia. Much of what you need to do to wake up on time starts by planning your sleep schedule the day and the evening before — and by making your mornings count.

How do our internal clocks work, and how much can we control them? According to the National Institutes of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), the body’s master clock, located in the brain, produces and regulates our circadian rhythms, which help determine sleep patterns over the course of a 24 hour period. Environmental signals, such as daylight and darkness, affect circadian rhythms, too. When incoming light hits the optic nerves, information is passed along from the eyes to the brain. When there is little or no light — at night — your clock tells the brain to make more melatonin, a hormone which makes you sleepy.

Our sleep-wake cycles, hormone levels, metabolism, and body temperature are all affected by our circadian rhythms, notes the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. When your rhythm is off, you may be at risk for more than just a few groggy days you drag yourself through. Irregular rhythms, the NIGMS notes, have been linked to chronic health conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, depression, bipolar disorder, and seasonal affective disorder.

But there are ways to recalibrate your system to get the sleep you need and wake up feeling refreshed and ready for the day ahead. Physiological and psychological factors come into play, and it’s not always easy to get a good night’s rest or adhere to a schedule so that you consistently go to sleep and get up around the same time each day.

If you’re not a morning person, and you find yourself struggling at the start of your day, try these tips and strategies to get going.

 Know Why You Want to Improve Your Wake-Up Routine

Michelle Segar, PhD, a healthy-living expert and motivation scientist at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, says that to make any change in your life stick, including waking up on time, you need to clearly define why it’s important to you.

What’s your motivation? Do you want to get up in time to have breakfast with your family, get in some exercise, or just have a few moments of reflection to be better prepared for your day? Maybe you’re just tired of the stress of running late every morning.

Once you crystallize your reasons, take a second step and tell your family or roommates about the change you want to make. Accountability helps as much as an alarm clock.

Streamline Your Mornings to Gain Time

Now that you’re clear about what you want to do when you wake up and what it takes to get more sleep, consider trimming down your morning activities. This could let you set the alarm clock for a few minutes (or more) later.

If you’ve decided you want time to have breakfast with your family, save some time the night before by setting out clothes, shoes, and bags. Are you spending 15 minutes in line at the café to get coffee? That’s a quarter-hour more you could be sleeping by buying a coffee maker with a timer — another wake-me-up device that will also brew your favorite hot drink on your schedule.

Get to Know Your Internal Body Clock Better

If you’ve been riding the sleep deprivation roller coaster for a while, you might not even know how much sleep your body naturally would want if you weren’t staying up late and slapping around the alarm clock in the morning.

Dr. Lack explains that, in general, your body makes changes in anticipation of your going to sleep, such as dropping in temperature and heart rate and secreting melatonin into your bloodstream one to two hours before your regular bedtime. This get-some-sleep cycle peaks at about 3 or 4 a.m., and then your body starts a gradual morning waking-up process.

One way to figure out what might work best for you is to set a consistent bedtime that starts about eight hours before your alarm is going to go off. Stick to that for several weeks (including weekends) to get a feeling for how well your body responds. Lack notes that some people are naturally night owls and will still find it hard to go to bed early (at least what’s early for them), even if they have to wake up early as well.

Try a Melatonin Supplement to Get Back on Track

Your body naturally makes melatonin to stimulate your sleep, but you can also take a melatonin supplement to help reorient your body clock. Try the lowest possible dose to start — 0.5 to 5 milligrams is common — five to six hours before bedtime for a few days. Lack says that, “after several nights, this should result in an earlier timed body clock, earlier sleep onset, and earlier, easier awakening in the morning.”

Melatonin doesn’t work well for all of sleep disorders, and can even result in drowsiness the next day for some people. It’s always a good idea to talk with your healthcare provider before taking supplements because of possible side effects and interactions with other medication you may be taking. People with autoimmune disorders or diabetes, and those taking birth control pills, blood thinners, sedatives, or some kinds of blood pressure medication, should not take melatonin without first discussing it with a healthcare professional.

Power Down Your Devices and Turn Off the TV Before Bedtime

Part of getting up on time is getting enough sleep the night before. And getting ready for bed is a process of winding down. Segar warns that spending time in front of screens — whether TV, laptop, or phone — right up until bedtime doesn’t lead to restful sleep. Use the alarm clock in your favorite gadget to set a reminder to turn everything off at least an hour before you turn in — no excuses.

Get Bright Light First Thing in the Morning

Sitting in front of the bright lights of your flat-screen TV before bedtime can make it hard to go to sleep, but bright light for an hour or two once you wake up can help set your body clock to accept your wake-up time. “This can be from sunlight, especially in summer, or artificial bright light if it’s cold, dark, and rainy outside,” says Lack, who is part of a research and development team that has developed bright light devices for this purpose. If your schedule allows it, a walk in the morning sun or a restful breakfast on the patio would be good for both your mood and better sleep.

Reorganize to Lighten Your Evening Schedule

To figure out what’s interfering with your sleep and therefore your waking up, look at your day and how you spend your evenings. You might have to reorganize some of your activities. For example, even if the only time you can get to the gym is after dinner, this time slot can result in poor sleep. Segar suggests finding another time to work out earlier in the day.

According to a National Sleep Foundation survey, about 12 percent of adults believe their work schedule makes it impossible to get enough sleep. If you’re overburdened on the job and constantly work late into the evening, try to find ways to share the load with a partner or colleague.

Get an Evaluation to See What’s Affecting Your Sleep

Sleep disorders, such as obstructive sleep apnea, or health issues, such as allergies or depression, could be leaving you with poor quality sleep. No matter how hard you try to get to bed on time and wake up on time, you’ll still be tired in the morning and sleepy during the day.

For sleep apnea, your sleep partner may note snoring or gasping for air, or you may have a morning headache. Talk to your doctor about testing to find out if you have an underlying condition that’s making sleep difficult.

Make Hitting ‘Snooze’ More of a Challenge

Now that you’ve identified the obstacles to going to sleep on time, it’s time to create some obstacles to staying in bed. If your alarm is right next to your bed and the big “snooze” button is easy to reach without raising your head off the pillow, you’re probably going to try to sleep in longer. Put your alarm clock at the other end of your bedroom so that you’re forced to get up to turn it off.

Also consider setting a second alarm — far away — if you’re having a lot of difficulty getting up. When you’re trying to reset your sleep and wake times, you might also ask family members or roommates to help you get up until you’re in sync.

Stick to Your Sleep and Wake Schedule on Weekends

If you’re running on empty by the time Friday night rolls around, sleeping in on Saturday could sound like heaven. But compensating on the weekends actually feeds into your sleepiness the following week because it interrupts your natural body clock, which doesn’t have a weekend setting.

Whatever your set bedtime and wake time are for the weekday, you’ll have to stick to them on the weekends, too. According to research published in the journal Chronobiology International, a consistent bedtime on the weekends seems to lead to better sleep and easier waking during the week. Plus, you get to spend that weekend morning time any way you’d like.


Orginally found on


Bringing Comfort Home…