Feb. 14, 2018—We're still a nation of night owls. But Americans may finally be waking up to the importance of getting a good night's rest. A study, published in the journal Sleep, found that we're starting to sleep more instead of less.
Researchers looked at survey data collected between 2003 to 2016 for 181,335 people ages 15 and older. Americans' sleep time increased each night by 1.4 minutes on weekdays and 0.8 minutes on weekends for each year of the study. Over the 14-year study period, that adds up to about 17 more minutes of sleep a night, or more than four full days of additional sleep. Going to bed earlier (instead of watching TV or reading, for example) was the main reason for the extra sleep.
Sleep is essential for good health. Sleep experts say adults need at least seven hours of nightly shuteye. Snoozing less than that on a regular basis (which millions of Americans still do) may increase the risk of several serious health problems. Among them: obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and depression.
You can learn more about the findings by reading the study's abstract.
8 tips for a better night's rest
Are you falling short on shuteye? Sometimes the key to a good night's rest is changing up your daytime routine, especially right before bed. Experts suggest these healthy habits:
- Stick to a schedule. Go to bed and get up at the same time—even on weekends.
- Watch what you drink when it's late. Caffeine late in the day isn't the only sleep thief. Drinking alcohol before bedtime can also mess with sleep.
- Turn down the heat. Make sure your bedroom is not only dark and quiet but also comfortably cool (though not cold).
- Don't watch TV or use a computer or smartphone in your bedroom. Use your bed only for sleep and sex.
- Get moving. Exercising regularly (during the day) may help you sleep better at night.
- Turn in early enough. Go to bed at an hour that will allow you to get up on time for work or school and still get at least seven hours of sleep.
- Wind down. As bedtime gets closer, turn down the lights in your home. Turn off your digital devices 30 minutes before it's time to sleep.
- Don't raid the fridge. Avoid heavy meals before bed. If you're hungry, opt for a light snack.
If changing your sleep habits doesn't help you rest—or if sleepless nights are affecting your days—it's a good idea to talk to a doctor. You could have a treatable sleep disorder.
Not just for grownups
Does your child have trouble sleeping? Check out this article for advice on how to help.