No Surprise: The Pandemic Is Impacting Everyone's Sleep, Says New Global Sleep Report
What’s the state of sleep since the pandemic arrived? The 2021 Philip's global sleep survey says the struggle for Zzzs is real around the world.
Sleep is as fundamental to health as food and water—so why does falling asleep, staying asleep, and getting enough sleep feel like a tricky riddle nobody can solve? More than 27,000 people type "why can't I sleep" into search engines each month, hunting for answers and solutions to their unique sleep problems—which have only become more prevalent since the coronavirus hit last year. But pinpointing exactly what's to blame for your chronic sleeplessness or occasional sleep troubles is no easy feat, often because several compounding factors are at play.
To get to the bottom of the biggest sleep concerns around the world almost a year since the pandemic hit, health technology company Philips surveyed more than 13,000 adults in 13 countries about their attitudes, issues, perceptions, and habits around sleep. The results, released in Philips' sixth annual global sleep report, "Seeking Solutions: How COVID-19 Changed Sleep Around the World," reveal that overall, only 55 percent of people are satisfied with their sleep. That doesn't come as a surprise knowing that, according to Philips data, people are sleeping only 6.9 hours per weeknight and 7.7 hours per weekend night, when the recommended amount of nightly sleep for a healthy adult is seven to nine hours per night.
We can't underestimate the pandemic's role in reducing many people's sleep quality and quantity, both directly and indirectly. According to the report, an overwhelming 70 percent of respondents experienced one or more new sleep challenges since the virus hit, including waking up throughout the night (43 percent). Sixty percent reported that the pandemic had directly impacted their ability to sleep well. More indirectly, we saw more people than ever keeping an eye on their screens in bed, right before bed, and late into the night (which can be a major, sleep-inhibiting habit in its own right). But the pandemic has certainly been a reason for increased phone use at bedtime. Eighty-four percent of people globally admitted using a phone in bed—up significantly from the 74 percent who did so last year. Of those looking at their phone before bed, 41 percent use it to read about either COVID-19-related news. A large number of respondents (73 percent) say they often scroll social media or watch videos as the last thing they do before going to bed.
As in past years—and as no surprise to anyone—stress continues to be the primary obstacle between people and sound sleep. In addition to coronavirus-related worries people have been grappling with, their sleep is mainly thwarted by either financial or work-related stress.
Another key finding is that more women than men respondents reported experiencing sleep struggles—not by a landslide, but enough to take notice. According to Philips, women were more likely than men to report 1) that the pandemic has negatively affected their sleep routine, 2) the pandemic has negatively impacted their ability to sleep well, and 3) that they've experienced brand-new sleep challenges since the pandemic started. That said, women were also more likely to try new habits to promote better sleep, like reading a book, listening to soothing music, or reducing caffeine consumption throughout the day. But overall, the majority of people are taking matters into their own hands. Many have started experimenting with sleep-friendly methods that are new to them, like meditation, special bedding, sunrise clocks, and CBD oil. And they're making moves to educate themselves about their specific sleep needs and concerns, using friends and family as a resource, researching online, and considering trying telehealth services for sleep-related issues.
Having trouble sleeping? Here are a few more natural ways to promote sleepiness and fall asleep fast.