Coincidence? We think not.

By Maggie Seaver
March 13, 2020

How much sleep you get can impact your emotional and mental wellbeing as much as your physical health. Sleep deprivation—whether it's caused by professional anxiety, physical discomfort, social stress, or external sensory disruptions—can wreak havoc on both your mood and your ability to temper mood fluctuation.

So is it any big surprise that the happiest countries in the world also happen to be those that tend to clock the most hours of sleep? To determine how international sleep habits might correlate with international happiness levels, the sleep app SleepScore Labs decided to compare several countries’ total average sleep time with their World Happiness Index Score, as defined by the 2019 World Happiness Report. SleepScore Labs analyzed sleep data from 1,234,462 nights, from over 72,000 users in 26 countries and found that, indeed, the best-rested nation also happened to be the happiest, in terms of overall life satisfaction and outlook.

Finland, which had the highest happiness score out of the 26 countries analyzed (7.8 out of 10), also has the highest average nightly sleep time: 7 hours and 5 minutes. A recent article from the World Happiness website on why Finland and its Nordic neighbors consistently top the world happiness ranking reads: 

“What does it take to be happy? The Nordic countries seem to have it all figured out. Finland and Denmark have consistently topped the The World Happiness Report in all six areas of life satisfaction: income, healthy life expectancy, social support, freedom, trust and generosity.”

After seeing the SleepScore Lab findings, it’s natural to assume a healthy and consistent amount of sleep both positively affects happiness, and is, in turn, positively affected by it.

Japan, the nation with the lowest happiness score (5.9 out of 10), only sleeps an average of 6 hours and 23 minutes per night. The difference between that and the 7 hours and 5 minutes of Finish citizens might not seem particularly drastic; however, shaving just a few minutes of sleep off the nightly recommended 7 to 9 hours can have both immediate and gradual, compounding effects on physical and mental/emotional health.

RELATED: 3 Reasons It’s Harder to Sleep as an Adult—and How to Get Back on Track

Where does the U.S. fall in all of this? Americans certainly have room for improvement when it comes to catching Zzzs. The average American only gets 6 hours and 47 minutes, with a so-so happiness score of 6.9 out of 10. One of the largest factors in America’s poor sleep habits has been proven to be the widespread use of technology and time spent on the internet. This is particularly true for adolescents, but adults can’t be exempt from this judgment either.

One chapter of the World Happiness Report directly associates smartphone use and screen time with both poor sleep and several health risk factors. Another chapter dives into the undeniable correlation between screen/internet use and unhappiness. In it, a graph charts the clear and drastic decline of sleep, in-person social interaction, and happiness in teens, juxtaposed with the incline in hours spent on the internet.

There’s a reason sleep experts encourage folks to unplug before bed. It’s not just something parents like to say about “kids these days,” or a lament on how times are changing with everyone constantly checking their phones. There’s science to bolster the argument that phone use and overall screen time impacts sleep—which then impacts the mind and body in myriad sneaky and obvious ways. 

Ready to turn off your phone (and laptop, tablet, and TV) to get some serious sleep? Time to adopt these 11 Healthy Habits That Can Actually Help You Sleep Better.

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