Saving Sleep

It may not feel like it, but Americans seem to have gained some winks.

By Alexander Blum, published May 1, 2018 - last reviewed on July 2, 2018


Are we sleeping worse than ever? If it feels that way, new data may surprise you. A survey study of more than 180,000 Americans, published in the journal Sleep, indicates that we’ve actually been getting more shuteye than we did in the early 2000s. According to an analysis of participants’ reports over time, we’ve picked up an estimated 1.4 minutes of sleep per weekday, on average, each passing year. That may not sound like much—but comparing 2016 to 2003, the increases translate to more than four days worth of additional slumber over the course of the year, according to University of Pennsylvania sleep researcher

Mathias Basner, a co-author of the study. Gains were greater during the week than on the weekend, possibly because “sleep time is much shorter during weekdays, so there is more time for increasing it,” Basner explains. They were also strongest among full-time students and the employed. So what’s behind the trend? For one thing, a declining percentage of respondents said that they read or watched TV immediately before bed. Such results suggest that Americans may be forgoing their books and shows, purposefully or not, for extra winks.