Social Butterflies: Personal Relationships and Sleep

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A brick wall isolates an individual from other people. Digital illustration.

If there’s one thing the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us, it’s that humans are social creatures. Forced to stay at home to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus, many have struggled with the lack of contact with friends and family, leading to a boom in virtual meetings, online parties and video chats with loved ones. But digital communication can’t replace the connection and intimacy of face-to-face contact, leaving some feeling isolated. As many Americans struggle with poor sleep, as well, the reduction in their social interactions likely plays a role. 

The 2020 State of America’s Sleep survey, fielded by the Better Sleep Council — the consumer education arm of the International Sleep Products Association — found that more than four in 10 Americans described their sleep as poor or fair. And most get less than the recommended seven or more hours of sleep each night. The study was initially conducted in January, with a follow-up fielded in March to reflect the impact of COVID-19.

Among the findings is a clear desire for and enjoyment of social interactions with family, friends and co-workers.

Family ties are a source of joy for many Americans. Most survey respondents — 90% — said they enjoy spending time with their spouse and/or children, and 82% reported having a great relationship with their spouse/partner. Among parents, 90% said their children are a huge source of pleasure in their lives, and 74% went even further to say being a parent is their main source of pleasure. Eighty-one percent also reported having a great relationship with their children. Familial relationships outside the home are important, too — more than half of Americans like spending time with their extended family.

Building and maintaining friendships also is important to most Americans. More than half of the respondents to the survey reported having deep, meaningful friendships with people outside their family, and 77% enjoy spending time with friends. Nearly half said they don’t have difficulty in social situations, and 49% enjoy meeting new people.  

Relationships with co-workers hold importance for many Americans, as well. Nearly three-fourths — 73% — reported they enjoy the people they work with. And 75% of survey respondents said they work in a friendly environment.

Even before COVID-19 limited our interactions outside the home, a significant number of survey respondents wish they could be more social. Nearly a third wanted to go out more but didn’t have anyone to go out with. And 40% of Americans said they wish they had more friends. 

With a significant decline in the opportunities to spend time with loved ones and meet new people during the pandemic, many Americans have felt a void in their lives over the past few months. That loss of human interaction is likely yet another issue contributing to restless nights.