Survey: Americans Don't Value Sleep

Americans See Sleep as a Hero – and a Villain


Americans are conflicted about sleep. A survey done by the Better Sleep Council shows people understand sleep is important, but also have negative feelings about sleep.

Americans Are Conflicted About the Importance of Sleep

While most people understand that sleep is necessary to recharge, restore and refresh, they also harbor some resentment about how much time they actually spend asleep.

Kudos for sleep

When asked what sleep means to them, Americans said:

  • It’s necessary to recharge/restore/refresh (62%)
  • It’s my favorite part of the day (14%)
  • It’s necessary but elusive (9%)
  • It’s a personal indulgence (6%)
  • I don’t think about it (5%)
  • It’s a necessary evil (3%)
  • It’s a waste of time and I’m missing out on things (2%)

How to meet the sandman

Americans were asked what strategies they use when they are having difficulty falling asleep, and they found these to be helpful:

  • Watch TV (50%)
  • Read a book/magazine (34%)
  • Take a sleep medication (24%)
  • Drink herbal tea/warm milk (20%)
  • Take a bath (16%)
  • There’s no hope (10%)
  • Get a new mattress (6%)
  • Get new bedding (6%)

Sleep stats bring people down

People were told that they will sleep for one-third of their lives, and when asked how it made them feel about sleep:

  • 33% said they like or love sleep; they feel good/great/OK about sleep; or they feel grateful
  • 24% said it’s needed or it’s needed to recharge your body; to stay or look younger or healthy; or to reset your mind
  • 15% felt it is wasted time or a waste of their lives; too much time lost; a loss of one-third of your life; it makes them feel depressed, sad or bad; or they hate it
  • 10% said they don’t get that much or enough sleep; or it makes them want more or better sleep
  • 8% responded it made them feel sleep is important or more important; it made them want to make the most of it; or it made them feel that sleep was valuable or critical
  • 8% felt indifferent about sleep; that it doesn’t matter; or there is nothing you can do about it
  • 7% said they should sleep less; they wished they had more time; they wished they didn’t need so much sleep; that’s a lot of sleep or time spent sleeping; it’s very time-consuming; it seems like too much; or simply said “crazy” or “wow”

Sleep talking

Some of the comments people made about sleep in the survey include:

  • “I love sleep – it and I are very good friends and I couldn’t think of a better way to spend one-third of my life than snuggled into my mattress”
  • “I like sleep. I think it’s refreshing and a worthy cause. Even if I’m not asleep I prefer to be in bed and cozy anyway.”
  • “It’s still necessary. Sleeping will help us to perform well at our job, help us to get good grades and help to make good decisions in our life. So, yes, we have to sleep one-third of our life to be able to live it fully.”
  • “It’s important for mental and physical health and revitalizes our bodies overnight. It makes me a little sad we spend that much time, but I realize it’s necessary.”
  • “Screw sleep! I have stuff to do!”
  • “Sad. What a waste of valuable time.”
  • “It’s disappointing that I will be spending such a large portion of my life asleep. It makes sleep seem even less appealing.”
  • “I wish it were true – insomnia never lets me sleep.”
  • “It reminds me of how important sleep is.”
  • “Sleep must be very important because there is hardly anything else that you will even spend close to that amount of time on.”
  • “It’s just how we function.”
  • “It is needed so I’m indifferent.”
  • “That’s a lot of sleep!”
  • “I wish I could get less of it but still live a long, fulfilling, healthy life.”

Competing with Rip Van Winkle

Survey respondents were told that by the time they are 60 years old, they will have spent roughly 20 years of their lives asleep. They replied that this made them think:

  • I need to make sleep more of a priority than I do right now (28%)
  • I can’t believe I’m about to waste 20 years of my life (24%)
  • I wish I could sleep for 12 hours a day (23%)
  • It makes me want to never go to sleep again (9%)
  • Other (16%)

Age impacts how Americans feel about sleep

Feelings about sleep change with each age and stage of life.

  • Millennials (30%) are significantly more likely to feel they are wasting 20 years of their lives sleeping than Gen Xers (23%) or Boomers (21%)
  • Millennial males (34%) are significantly more likely to feel they are wasting 20 years of their lives with sleep than both Gen X males (18%) and Boomer males (20%)
  • Respondents with children (30%) were significantly more likely to feel sleep is a waste than those with none (19%)

Survey Details: Conducted in April 2015 with a statistically representative sample of U.S. adults (18+); a sample size of 1,000 yields a confidence interval of 95% +/- 3.1% . Age groups: Millennials (18-34), Gen X (35-54) and Baby Boomers (55+).

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