Losing Sleep? You’re Not Alone


The 2020 State of America’s Sleep survey sponsored by the Better Sleep Council shows sleeplessness on the rise. Here’s why

Alarm clock in the middle of the night insomnia or dreaming

Editor’s note: As part of the strategic plan of the International Sleep Products Association to provide knowledge and data to members of the bedding community, the Better Sleep Council (ISPA’s consumer education arm) recently conducted two series of surveys to further the industry’s understanding of consumer trends. 

The article below examines the results of the second annual State of America’s Sleep, which serves as a yearly report on how Americans are sleeping and assesses the factors that are affecting sleep.

A second major article focuses on a buyer’s journey, tracing the path consumers follow when considering and purchasing a mattress. It is the second in a three-part buyer’s journey series. (Read the first story here. The third article will appear in the September issue of Sleep Savvy.)

Americans are sleeping worse than they did a year ago. That’s the finding of the 2020 State of America’s Sleep survey, fielded by the Better Sleep Council, the consumer education arm of the International Sleep Products Association. The second edition of the sleep survey — conducted in January with a follow-up in March to reflect the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic — found that the quality of sleep in the United States has declined since 2019. 

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. Thirty-seven percent of respondents reported waking up tired often or frequently, and a quarter said they wake up stiff, sore or in pain. And nearly half — 47% — said they never or rarely wake up feeling refreshed, while 45% said they wake up at night often or frequently.

Why are so many people sleeping less or poorly? A number of factors have contributed to the decline in restful sleep, from economic stress and fear of COVID-19 to an increase in poor health habits.

“This year’s State of America’s Sleep survey gives us a unique look at not only how sleep habits have changed since last year, but also how the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States has affected them,” said Mary Helen Rogers, vice president of marketing and communication for ISPA and the BSC. “The data shows people are feeling more stressed out and sleeping less. Being able to better understand what today’s shopper is feeling and thinking allows our industry to better connect, create solutions and start improving America’s sleep.”

Policy points

Economic and health fears certainly have been a source of stress for many Americans, particularly after the onset of the novel coronavirus pandemic. But those aren’t the only national issues causing concern. 

  • According to the survey, 66% of Americans were worried about terrorism, an increase from 2019. And 51% of respondents reported feeling threatened by the actions of other countries toward the United States, up from 43% in 2019.
  • In regard to immigration, 47% of respondents thought illegal immigration posed a threat to the country in 2019, while 46% saw current immigration policies as a threat to the nation.
  • Just over a quarter of respondents felt the country is headed in the right direction, and 73% were concerned about the current political climate in the United States. In addition, 73% of those surveyed expressed concern about the environmental health of the planet. 

Interpersonal issues

Another source of stress for many Americans is the status of their relationships — or lack thereof — with family and friends. 

  • While more than two-thirds of respondents who are parents said their children are a huge source of pleasure in their lives, 40% said being a parent is a significant source of stress. 
  • When it comes to relationships outside the home, 40% of respondents acknowledged wishing they had more friends. And 34% admitted to having a difficult time being in social situations.

Hindering habits

Whether they realize it or not, many Americans negatively impact their sleep by engaging in habits that can disrupt or diminish rest. 

  • Thirty-five percent of survey respondents said they have their last caffeinated beverage two hours or less before going to bed, and 44% reported drinking water before bed. More than half eat their last meal or snack two hours or less before bedtime, with 21% snacking right before bed.
  • The number of Americans who exercise dropped from last year, with more than a quarter saying they don’t exercise. And those who do engage in physical activity are doing it less than last year. Respondents reported spending an average of 2.31 hours a week exercising in 2020 versus 2.48 hours in 2019.
  • And while more than half of respondents silence their smartphone at bedtime, many engage in sleep-disturbing digital activities just prior to bed. Sixty-four percent reported watching television or streaming video on their phone or tablet before bed. And 36% check social media before retiring, while 26% admitted to checking email prior to bedtime.

Setting the scene

For many Americans, their quality of sleep also can depend on the environment of their bedroom and the quality of sleep products they use.  

One source of restless sleep could be the mattress many Americans rest on each night. Thirty-one percent reported sleeping on a mattress that is at least 6 years old, if not older. And nearly a quarter of respondents sleep on pillows that are 3 to 5 years old. 

Thirty-nine percent of respondents sleep with a fan on in their bedroom, a quarter sleep with a pet and 28% sleep with the television on. Smart sleep devices — from air quality monitoring devices to smart thermostats — were used only by small percentages of respondents. 

Jennifer Bringle has covered the home furnishings industry for several years, previously serving as editor in chief of both Casual Living and Kids Today magazines. Her writing also has appeared in Glamour, Good Housekeeping, Parents and The Washington Post. Follow her on Twitter at @jcbringle.

Additional articles related to the 2020 State of America’s Sleep survey

Survey Says: Economic Stress Leading to Poor Sleep

Social Butterflies: Personal Relationships and Sleep

Fun and Games: Hobbies, Sleep

Movers and Sleepers: The Link Between Activity and Sleep