Americans are finally getting more sleep — about 18 minutes more per weeknight compared with 2003.
It may not sound like much, but researchers say it’s a positive sign.
“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,” said Dr Mathias Basner, the associate professor of sleep and chronobiology in psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania and the lead author of the analysis of federal survey data, published this month in the journal “Sleep.”
The incremental gains took place over 13 years. Basner and his colleague, David F. Dinges, found that Americans gained about 1.4 minutes of sleep per weeknight each year between 2003 and 2016.
People also slept more on weekends, though the improvement was not as great — an extra 50 seconds of sleep per weekend night per year, a total gain of about 11 minutes.
On average, Americans get more than eight hours of sleep on weeknights and more on weekends, according to the data. But sleep length varies widely.
According to the Centre's for Disease Control and Prevention, more than a third of adults get insufficient sleep, which it defines as less than seven hours.
Many studies have pointed to the potential health benefits of a good night’s sleep. Poor sleep has been linked to weight gain, focus issues and even an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. It can even exacerbate relationship problems.
To prevent those problems and ensure quality sleep, experts suggest limiting screen time before bed, creating a consistent routine, avoiding naps and maintaining a relaxing environment.
“When you enter the bedroom, it should be a sign for your body that it’s time to go to bed,” Basner said.
That’s why he found the results of his analysis so encouraging: The public, it seems, is developing a healthier relationship with sleep.
Americans were able to eke out extra sleep largely by heading to bed sooner and, to a lesser degree, by waking up later, the researchers found.
That changing weeknight bedtime — a shift earlier of 66 seconds each year — was made possible in part by less reading and television watching before bed.