The Better Sleep Council (BSC), the consumer education arm of the International Sleep Products Association (ISPA), released its latest research findings from The State of America’s Sleep study. These findings can help Americans identify how isolation and sleep may further impact their holiday pressures.
This new wave of research analyzed the relationship between quality of sleep and loneliness. For instance, over half of those who are isolated are more likely to be female (55%), compared to over half of men who are not isolated (53%). When looking at the different generations, people between the ages of 18 and 34 were the most isolated group and were more likely to sleep poorly, compared to their older counterparts.

According to a study by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), 31% of people ages 18 and over felt lonely during the holiday season sometime during the past five years, and 41% have worried about a family member or friend feeling lonesome. Not asking for help, feeling the need to complete everything yourself, and overall stress and anxiety can all trigger feelings of isolation and loneliness that may contribute to a lack of sleep. The BSC research revealed three findings shared by poor sleepers who felt isolated.

The top three findings from the research were that the worst sleepers tend to have difficult interpersonal relationships, have financial challenges or are heavy social media users. These individuals may struggle with the following:

    1. Holiday gatherings with family and friends: The holidays are a time of year where family and friends get together, but high expectations – such as having the perfect gifts, trees or decorations – may be stressful and overwhelming for some. Additionally, not having anyone around to celebrate with during the joyous time of year may make people feel isolated and lonely. Based on the BSC’s research:
      Adults who agree (completely or somewhat) that they wish they had more friends represent almost half of poor sleepers (46%).
      Poor sleepers are nearly twice as likely (1.77 times) to have difficulty in social situations.
      Additionally, those who are isolated are more likely (37%) to be single (never married), compared to those who are not isolated (27%).
    2. Struggling with holiday budgets: The National Retail Federation found that consumers spent $1,007 on average for items such as gifts, decorations and candy, as well as other purchases for their family and themselves during last year’s holiday season – and that didn’t even include spending for holiday travel. The holidays may possibly bring up financial concerns from unreasonable spending on gifts or from not having the means to pay for certain gifts, which may trigger stress. According to the BSC’s study:
      Those who are isolated agree (somewhat or completely) that for the most part they live paycheck to paycheck (55%), compared to those who are not isolated (44%).
      Those who are isolated agree (somewhat or completely) that they generally have enough money to pay only for necessities (54%), compared to those not isolated (42%).
    3. Seasonal social media usage: It’s easy to use social media to check in on family and friends, especially if they live far away and you’re unable to visit them. It might even be so easy to get caught up in their posts about family gatherings and parties with significant others that it leads to excessive social media usage throughout the day – even before bed. The research found that those who are isolated are more likely to check social media before bed (39%), compared to those not isolated (27%). Going on social media right before bed is more likely to negatively impact quality of sleep.

“We all know that the holiday season is supposed to be ʽthe most wonderful time of the year,’ but it actually could be one of the loneliest times of the year for many people,” says Mary Helen Rogers, vice president of marketing and communications for the Better Sleep Council, in a release. “Not only do these people feel isolated, but they’re also having trouble getting back to sleep and are frequently waking up tired in the morning. Holiday pressures are often to blame. If we can provide these people with tips on how to improve their sleep habits as we approach the holidays, then hopefully we can help them feel less isolated.”

People such as the elderly, empty nesters, and those who are grieving the loss of a loved one could be more prone to experiencing loneliness during the holiday season. Interestingly, the BSC research found that these older generations and retired individuals are less socially isolated in America. Contrary to popular belief, those who are not isolated are more likely to be aged 55+ (39%), compared to those who are isolated (26%). Additionally, those who are not isolated are more likely to be retired (26%), compared to those who are isolated (15%).

2,000 surveys were fielded from April 10-18, 2019, among a representative sample of U.S. adults (age 18+). Analysis was conducted to establish a Sleep Index (SI) that can be used to track America’s sleep quality over time. The index was used to create three groups, which are poor sleepers, average sleepers, and excellent sleepers.