The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) released new insights about Americans’ sleep health during the global COVID-19 pandemic. The Sleep Health Index (SHI)-based report highlights a view of cross-sectional data from 12,000 Americans who were asked about their sleep health from 2019-2021.

The analysis revealed improvement in some measures of sleep, such as more American adults getting NSF’s recommended 7-9 hours of sleep per night, but results also indicated significant differences by race and ethnicity. These findings reinforce the critical need for attention to sleep health disparities and sleep health equity. Other measures significantly declined, like sleep quality, which recorded a new low in the SHI. Declines in sleep quality tended to occur more frequently in women, individuals without college degrees, and middle-to-lower-income Americans, exacerbating already-existing gaps in sleep quality among these groups.

“We know existing studies that looked at pandemic-era changes in sleep health were limited to early in the pandemic, so we see this analysis as adding to our base of knowledge and giving a broader picture of the nation’s sleep health across two years of this global event,” says Erin Koffel, PhD, senior director of research and scientific affairs at the National Sleep Foundation, in a release. “We’re seeing both consistencies and differences compared to other reports, and over a longer span of time than others.”

National Sleep Foundation’s Sleep Health Index (SHI) survey, which has continued to be fielded throughout the pandemic, is a validated gauge of Americans’ sleep health. It includes an overall score and subindices of sleep quality, sleep duration, and disordered sleep, with higher scores indicating better sleep health. The SHI has been fielded in nationally representative surveys quarterly since 2016.

“Moving forward, we’ll act on these data gathered from Americans during the pandemic to develop and share a broader understanding of sleep health,” says John Lopos, CEO of the National Sleep Foundation, in a release. “At the end of the day, our purpose at NSF is to help anyone and everyone be their Best Slept Self.”

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