Research recently conducted by the Better Sleep Council (BSC) shows Americans are conflicted about sleep. The survey found that a large majority of people understand that sleep is necessary to recharge, restore, and refresh. But when asked about their feelings toward sleep, their answers become more complex and polarized.
The survey, administered during April 2015 in support of the BSC’s annual “May is Better Sleep Month” campaign, shows that the way sleep is framed influences the way people feel about it. When asked about how important sleep is, only 2% view sleep as a waste of time. But negative feelings become more prominent when people are told how much of their lives are spent asleep. For example, when told they will spend an average of one-third of their lives sleeping, 15% of respondents felt negatively about the amount of time spent “wasted” on sleep–despite the fact that this is the typical biological requirement. And when told that they will have slept for roughly 20 years by the time they reach age 60, a total of 33% of respondents were dismayed that they were “about to waste 20 years” of their life or said they “never want to sleep again.”
“The research clearly shows that what we understand about sleep versus how we feel about it is polarizing–and that has profound ramifications on how Americans treat the importance of sleep,” says Mary Helen Uusimaki, BSC vice president of marketing and communications, in a release. “Spending one-third of your life sleeping is not a negative; it’s a biological need. Those that feel time is being wasted on sleep will more likely cheat themselves of the 7 to 9 hours they need to make their waking hours more healthy, productive and enjoyable.”
According to the research, Millennials are significantly more likely to feel that spending 20 out of 60 years sleeping is a waste of time (30%), compared to Generation X (23%), and Baby Boomer (21%) respondents. That number rises when examining male responses only–34% of Millennial males feel the time is wasted, compared to Generation X males (18%), and Baby Boomer males (20%). A possible reason for this difference is the desire for younger people to experience the here and now to its fullest, as captured by the popular slogan, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.”
“Negative attitudes about sleep can be linked to what other experts have concluded–that a primary cause of excessive sleepiness among Americans is self-imposed sleep deprivation,” says Terry Cralle, RN, certified clinical sleep educator and BSC health and wellness spokesperson. “Health professionals should be concerned that Americans may think of sleep as a waste of time, when in fact, chronic sleep deprivation can lead to serious health issues, including heart disease, obesity, stroke, and dementia.”
There is some hope, however, as 33% of respondents have no concerns about spending one-third of their lives sleeping–the statement evokes positive feelings, and they consider sleep worthy of that much of their time. Another 24% feel it’s necessary to recharge. However, half of respondents struggling to fall asleep, unfortunately, turn to the television for help–a method sleep experts discourage. What should they try instead? The Better Sleep Council recommends starting with these five tips:
- Make sleep a priority. Keep a consistent sleep and wake schedule–even on the weekends. If necessary, try adding sleep to your to-do list. And don’t be late.
- Maintain a relaxing sleep routine. Create a bedtime routine that relaxes you. Experts recommend reading a book, listening to soothing music, or soaking in a hot bath.
- Create a sleep sanctuary. Your bedroom should be a haven of comfort. Create a room that is dark, quiet, comfortable, and cool for the best sleep possible. Consider a bedroom makeover.
- Evaluate your sleep system. Your mattress and pillow should provide full comfort and support. Your bed and your body will naturally change over time, so if your mattress is 7 years old (or older), it may be time for a new one. Pillows should generally be replaced every year.
- Banish technology. Television, smartphones, tablets, laptops, and computers should be kept out of the bedroom. Intense backlighting of electronics triggers stimulating chemicals in the brain that tell your body it’s time to be awake.