The Unexpected Reason You're Not Getting Enough Sleep

And it's not just you—your neighbors have the same problem, too.

woman-falling-asleep
Photo by Paul Bradbury / Getty Images

Do you work more hours a day than you sleep? You’re not alone: According to a recent sleep study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)1 in 3 Americans don’t get the National Sleep Foundation’s recommended 7 or more hours of sleep each night.

The CDC, along with state health departments, surveyed 444,306 adult U.S. citizens by telephone in 2014. Each participant was asked, “On average, how many hours of sleep do you get in a 24-hour period?” Responses were dialed in using telephone keypads, and sleep was recorded by the nearest whole hour slept.

Across all states, 65.2 percent of respondents reported sleeping for a healthy duration—seven or more hours each night. But researchers also found interesting factors that appeared to affect sleep. Here, five surprising ways to get a better night's sleep:
 

  1. Live in the Great Plains, not the Southeast or along the Appalachian Mountains. You’ll have to get better at shoveling snow, but you're also more likely to clock more sleeping hours. Respondents in Great Plains states reported the most sleep in the nation. In the top two states—Minnesota and South Dakota—70.8 and 71.6 percent of participants, respectively, said they got seven or more hours of sleep a night. Southeastern and Appalachian states reported lower-than-average sleep time, with just 60.3 percent of Kentuckians and 61.1 percent of Marylanders getting enough shut-eye. The CDC said these regions also had the highest rates of obesity and other chronic illnesses.
     
  2. If you’re going to stay in the Southeast, pick North Carolina over South Carolina. Surprisingly, more people in the northern state report getting a healthy amount of sleep (67.6 percent) than those in the southern state (61.5 percent).
     
  3. Graduate from college. No matter how advanced your degree, just graduating with a college diploma increases your odds of sleeping better—71.5 percent of those with a university degree said they got enough sleep per night, while those who didn't earn a diploma hovered at about 62.4 percent.
     
  4. Live in Colorado, not Hawaii. If you’re debating between slopes or waves, this might be the deciding factor: Colorado had the second-highest sleep in the nation (71.5 percent), while Hawaii had the worst (56.1 percent).
     
  5. Stay married, cohabitate, or stay single. Another surprising sleep interrupter? Your relationship status. Only 55.7 percent of those who were divorced, widowed, or separated got enough sleep. Married people slept the most, with 67.4 percent of respondents saying they get a good night's sleep. Those who where cohabiting got a little less sleep (65.2 percent), and those who were never married said they got more sleep than those who were divorced or separated (65.2 percent).

If you're one of many who don’t get enough sleep, the CDC recommends adopting healthy sleep behaviors such as staying on a regular sleep/wake schedule, sleeping in a quiet, dark, comfortable room, not using screens or light-emitted electronic devices right before—or during—sleep, and avoiding large meals, nicotine, alcohol, and caffeine before bedtime. And, if you have sleep problems, like insomnia, sleep apnea or shift work disorder, consult a medical professional for treatment.