New data from the National Sleep Foundation’s (NSF) Sleep Health Index show a significant increase in the percentage of US adults who sleep less than the NSF-recommended seven to nine hours per night, as more restrictions were lifted during the COVID-19 pandemic.
NSF’s findings showed a 40% increase in the percentage of US adults who sleep less than seven to nine hours a night (45% in 2021 to 63% in 2022). Changes in pandemic-related restrictions, such as returning to in-person work, school, and social events, may be associated with the observed reductions in sleep duration across the population. The World Health Organization declared the emergency phase of the global COVID-19 pandemic to be over in May 2023.
“This effect is certainly alarming. We are still learning from this unique historical period, and these results reinforce there’s more work for us and others to do to improve population sleep health in response to what we’ve seen,” says Temitayo Oyegbile-Chidi, NSF board chair, in a release.
NSF has historically conceptualized sleep health as a combination of adequate sleep duration, sleep quality, and sleep satisfaction and not the mere absence of sleep disorders. NSF developed and validated the Sleep Health Index as a way to assess the population’s sleep health and has administered it annually since 2014.
“Building on NSF’s previous breaking report about sleep in US adults during the global pandemic, one of the first to share multi-year data, we specifically looked at how Americans’ sleep health began to change after more people’s routines began to normalize. It is striking that we observed a significant decrease in sleep duration as the nation returned to more normal, pre-pandemic operations. We continue to analyze our dataset for new observations and design research we can translate to help the public,” says NSF vice president of research and scientific affairs Joseph Dzierzewski, PhD, in a release.