Survey Says: Economic Stress Leading to Poor Sleep

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Paper person with Anxiety headline surrounded by Coronavirus and economic news headlines

Concerns over the economy — both personal finances and the nation’s financial health, particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic — contribute to poor sleep for many Americans, according to the State of America’s Sleep report. The survey — conducted by the Better Sleep Council, the consumer education arm of the International Sleep Products Association — was fielded in two waves, one in January and the other in March after the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States. The results show significant changes in sleep habits and general mood not only over last year, but in the months before and after the novel coronavirus reached the United States, as well.

According to the survey, the average number of hours slept each night by respondents was six hours and 50 minutes, just short of the recommended seven hours or more. And more than four in 10 Americans (43%) described their sleep as poor or fair, an increase from 38% in 2019. Women led that increase, accounting for more than half of poor sleepers.

One of the main contributors to this spike in poor sleep is increased stress. According to the survey, 41% of Americans said they felt stress often or very often, up from 36% last year. With the added pressures of COVID-19, Americans are feeling more stressed than ever. As of March, 53% of Americans admitted feeling stressed about COVID-19 often or very often. And that stress is two-fold for many — in addition to concerns about their health, many Americans also face financial difficulties because of the economic impact of the pandemic.

“Worries about the economy and our own health are keeping Americans up at night,” said Mary Helen Rogers, vice president of marketing and communication for the BSC and ISPA. “The State of America’s Sleep survey outlines how these and other stressors are having a negative impact on our sleep quality.”

Financial fear

With lockdowns and stay-at-home orders canceling major events and closing businesses, the economic impact of COVID-19 has had far-reaching effects for many Americans.

More than half of survey respondents expressed a lack of confidence in the stock market. At the same time, 60% of Americans said they have money for savings invested in the stock market. When viewed through the lens of the decline of the American economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has generated record unemployment, along with historic losses in the stock market, there’s little wonder economic concerns are contributing to sleepless nights.

According to the survey, 69% of Americans are concerned about their financial future. More than half of respondents said they live paycheck to paycheck, and just over half also said they generally have only enough money to pay for necessities. 

Americans are saving less, too. Fewer save money regularly for unforeseen home expenses (44% in 2020 vs. 48% in 2019), as well as unplanned health expenses (down to 33% from 37% last year). There was a drop in saving for retirement, as well, from 43% in 2019 to 39% this year, and the number of respondents saving for college expenses dropped a full 10% from last year, from 43% to 33%. And respondents are saving less for stress-reducing vacation time — down 4% from last year.

Work woes

In addition to many Americans navigating layoffs, furloughs and pay cuts due to COVID-19, workers are feeling other work-related stresses, as well.

According to the survey, three in 10 respondents feel disrespected at work, a drop from 74% who felt their workplace was respectful in 2019. And the mood of their workplace has worsened, too, with more than a quarter of Americans describing their workplace as an unfriendly environment, up from 22% in 2019.

Forty percent of respondents said they feel under pressure at work most of the time, with the remaining 60% saying they occasionally are under pressure on the job. And with well over half of respondents indicating they need at least seven hours of sleep to feel productive at work, there’s a high likelihood their lack of sleep adds even more workplace pressure. 

Whether dealing with unemployment or a difficult work environment, it’s clear that an increase in workplace issues has had an impact on Americans’ stress levels. Coupled with economic trouble exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, Americans are under more pressure than ever, leading to a rash of sleepless and restless nights.