The Philips global sleep survey uncovers the main culprits behind sleep shortages experienced around the world—and you're probably dealing with at least one of them.

By Maggie Seaver
Updated March 04, 2020

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? Around 27,000 people type, “why can’t I sleep,” into search engines each month, hunting for answers and solutions to their unique sleep problems. 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 complaints around the world right now, health technology company Philips surveyed more than 13,000 adults in 13 countries about their different attitudes, perceptions, and behaviors around sleep. The results, released in the fifth annual Philips global sleep report “Wake Up Call: Global Sleep Satisfaction Trends,” reveal that only 49 percent of people are satisfied with their sleep.

What’s keeping everyone up at night—and stopping half the world from getting the recommended seven to nine hours of shut-eye? According to this report, the most common sleep obstacle is the ubiquitous and ever-ominous issue of worry and/or stress. Whether it’s over money, work, family, relationships, or more day-to-day concerns, stress and anxiety are known to take a massive toll on sleep quality and quantity.

Another huge factor is use of technology right before bedtime or even in bed. In fact, 75 percent of survey-takers admit to using their phones while in bed, and 39 percent said they reach for their devices right before falling asleep and as soon as they wake up. Work, the news, digital conversations, and the constant tease of entertainment makes it nearly impossible to unplug these days.

Nightly tech use overstimulates us, delays and distracts from bedtime, and continues to contribute to the growing number of sleep conditions, including insomnia and chronic fatigue. Despite the alleged detriments of tech-emitted blue light, even more fundamentally, “not powering down prevents you from fully focusing on the action of sleep,” David Volpi, MD, a sleep specialist and founder and director of EOS Sleep in New York City, told Philips in a blog post.

Finally, we have some sad news: Sleeping two to a bed isn’t always ideal for a restful night. If your bed partner snores, fidgets, or keeps a very different sleep schedule, this will sound familiar to you. More than one-third of participants in a relationship said they sometimes sleep separately from their partner in order to get more sleep, and about 30 percent said that their significant other’s sleep challenges impact their relationship (when we’re tired, we’re more likely to be moody, stressed, impulsive, and irritable, creating a perfect breeding ground for tension).

Despite the prevalence of these top three sleep concerns, Philips found that fewer people were willing to take action to improve their sleep than they were last year. According to the press release, nearly all listed strategies to improve sleep, such as reading a book, were lower or consistent in 2020 when compared to 2019 data. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make moves to boost your sleep habits.

The best thing you can do is establish a healthy bedtime routine that lets you relax and destress. Try dimming the lights, reading something boring (for you), taking a warm bath or shower, practicing a short, sleep-promoting meditation or breathing exercise, or giving yourself an easy neck massage to unwind. A nightly routine really shouldn’t involve your phone, tablet, or laptop. In fact, it should involve you actively distancing yourself from them. Leave your phone to charge across the room, or better yet, in another room, overnight. As for couples? Anyone losing sleep from trying to share a bed with a partner might consider getting a sleep divorce—a sleep solution, which, contrary to its harsh name, has saved both snooze habits and marriages.