Trends in Sleep Duration Evaluated Among U.S. Adults Over 14-Year Period

Sleep duration increased across survey years both on weekdays and weekends
Sleep duration increased across survey years both on weekdays and weekends

Although sleep deprivation is still prevalent among Americans, findings from a new 14-year analysis indicate that adults are getting more sleep each night. The full findings were published in the journal Sleep.

The American Time Use Survey (ATUS) was conducted between 2003 and 2016 to study trends in self-reported sleep duration and waking activities. A total of 181,335 participants aged ≥15 years were included for the analysis. The data indicated an additional +1.40 minutes of sleep per year on weekdays and +0.83 minutes of sleep per year on weekends (both P<0.01); this translated to 17.3 minutes more sleep each night or 4.4 days more sleep each year. This increase was seen in students, employed participants, and retirees but not among those unemployed or not in the labor force. 

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During workdays, the prevalence of short sleep (≤7 hours) decreased by -0.44% per year (P<0.0001) and average sleep (>7 to 9 hours) decreased by -0.03% per year (P=0.5515). In contrast, the prevalence of long sleep rose by +0.48% per year (P<0.0001). These changes were mainly attributed to participants going to sleep earlier in the evening. The percentage of participants watching TV or reading before bed also decreased over the 14-year period, "suggesting that portions of the population are increasingly willing to trade time in leisure activities for more sleep," the study authors noted. Another explanation for increased sleep duration may be due to the growing online opportunities to work, study, bank, shop, and perform administrative duties from home freeing up more time. 

"The findings indicate first successes in the fight against sleep deficiency," the authors write. "Public health consequences of the observed increase in the prevalence of long sleep remain unclear and warrant further investigation."

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