The year 2020 hasn’t been kind to those sensitive to what is going on around them. Some of these things are impossible to change. Nevertheless, those who want to take better care of themselves – especially in the time of a pandemic, when the immune system needs to remain strong – will need to learn to prioritize sleep.
Two new studies have explored how living in the time of the pandemic is affecting the way people in the US and Europe sleep. While they found that many people sleep longer hours due to lockdowns and working from home, they also discovered that the quality of sleep has significantly decreased.
However, poor sleep quality, and lack of sleep in general, is not a new thing to the Americans. Older data shows that 45% of US citizens say that insufficient sleep has an impact on their lives.
So, what were the obstacles preventing them from getting their needed shuteye? The same ones tormenting them today:
“No Time to Lose”
We see more and more people trying to cram more things into a 24-hour day even more persistently than they used to. So many are trying to do two jobs while at the same time having a social life and a family. Those who have one job often work longer hours and carry their work home. All of this leaves no time for self-care and physical activity.
On the other hand, many Americans sleep less and wake up earlier to squeeze in a workout. We need exercise, but when we’re getting it at the expense of sleep, well, we’re still at a loss. Finding the balance between all these things is difficult but essential if you want to stay healthy and rested.
Cities That Never Sleep
One of the biggest problems with city life is that big cities rarely sleep and, consequently, rarely allow their inhabitants to do the same.
Research about the best and worst cities for sleep in the US has shown that Philadelphia is the worst city for sleep, mostly because of the high levels of light pollution. Los Angeles also won’t allow you to rest because it is the noisiest and the least peaceful city in the States. A significant part of San Diego exceeds the noise pollution threshold as well. On the other hand, the best cities for sleep in America are San Antonio, San Francisco, and Indianapolis.
Research by the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine has shown that one in four Americans develops acute insomnia every year. While most of these people recover without developing a chronic condition, this is still a huge number of sleep-deprived people we’re talking about.
Americans struggle with other sleep disorders, as well. Many experience sleep apnea, night terrors, bruxism (jaw grinding), and restless leg syndrome. Sleep disorders are, more often than not, a consequence of some other underlying health condition or poor lifestyle habits.
Chronic Health Conditions
Speaking of health conditions that can lead to poor sleep or sleep disorders, Americans have them in abundance. According to the Center for Disease Control, heart disease is the leading cause of death for most Americans, and one in four US citizens has a heart attack every 40 seconds. Nearly 30% of Americans suffering from arthritis have reported getting less than seven hours of sleep, while more than 16% of the interviewed citizens with asthma said that they are also getting insufficient sleep.
Stress, anxiety, and depression are everyday companions in the lives of many Americans. In fact, depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the US, with an estimated 17.3 million adults having at least one depressive episode. More than 22% of depressive Americans have reported sleeping less than seven hours.
Moreover, a survey from 2019 has shown more adults reporting feelings of stress than in the previous years. The things bothering them included the presidential elections, health care, and mass shootings. That was 2019. Now, the elections are closer than ever, a pandemic has taken the rug out from underneath the entire world, and seeing George Floyd killed by a policeman has unleashed a wave of protests.
Carrying all these burdens on one’s mind is bound to leave a trace on sleep quality. These, among others, are the reasons why so many people develop a wide variety of anxiety disorders and related behavioral disturbances. Anxiety and stress have a devastating impact on sleep quality and duration. Excess worry and feelings of anxiety make it harder to fall and stay asleep at night, while sleep deprivation increases stress and worrying, thus creating a vicious circle.
Yes, the USA is a nation under stress. Americans are, like many others around the world, burdened by the need to achieve more in a short period. They pay the cost of living in the hearts of cities that never sleep. Often, various poor lifestyle habits contribute to diseases ruining sleep quality.
On top of all this, the year 2020 hasn’t been kind to those sensitive to what is going on around them. Some of these things are impossible to change. Nevertheless, those who want to take better care of themselves – especially in the time of a pandemic, when the immune system needs to remain strong – will need to learn to prioritize sleep. The road to better sleep might take effort, but it’s worth every bit of it.