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Sleep in America® Poll 2020
Americans Feel Sleepy 3 Days a Week,
With Impacts on Activities, Mood & Acuity
Time for a nap?
If the idea sounds good, you’re not alone. The National Sleep Foundation’s 2020 Sleep in
America poll finds that Americans feel sleepy on an average of three days a week, with many
saying it impacts their daily activities, mood, mental acuity, productivity and more.
Just 16 percent say they don’t feel sleepy at all in a typical week (this excludes sleepiness at
bedtime and when waking up). About half, by contrast, feel sleepy anywhere from three to seven
days a week. That includes a big
gender gap: Women report feeling
sleepy 3.4 days a week, on
average; men, 2.7 days.
Effects are widespread. Forty
percent of adults say feeling sleepy
at least occasionally interferes with
their daily activities, including
nearly a quarter who say this
happens often or sometimes.
Forty-four percent of women
report at least occasional effects, as
do 36 percent of men.
In the most commonly reported effect, 58 percent say feeling sleepy can impact their mood.
Similarly, 55 percent say sleepiness at least occasionally makes them irritable, and three in 10
say this happens with some frequency (that is, often or sometimes).
Other health effects are headaches, at least an occasional result of sleepiness for 36 percent of
adults; and feeling generally unwell, at least occasional for 33 percent.
1
Sleep in America® Poll 2020
Americans Feel Sleepy 3 Days a Week,
With Impacts on Activities, Mood & Acuity
Time for a nap?
If the idea sounds good, you’re not alone. The National Sleep Foundation’s 2020 Sleep in
America poll finds that Americans feel sleepy on an average of three days a week, with many
saying it impacts their daily activities, mood, mental acuity, productivity and more.
Just 16 percent say they don’t feel sleepy at all in a typical week (this excludes sleepiness at
bedtime and when waking up). About half, by contrast, feel sleepy anywhere from three to seven
days a week. That includes a big
gender gap: Women report feeling
sleepy 3.4 days a week, on
average; men, 2.7 days.
Effects are widespread. Forty
percent of adults say feeling sleepy
at least occasionally interferes with
their daily activities, including
nearly a quarter who say this
happens often or sometimes.
Forty-four percent of women
report at least occasional effects, as
do 36 percent of men.
In the most commonly reported effect, 58 percent say feeling sleepy can impact their mood.
Similarly, 55 percent say sleepiness at least occasionally makes them irritable, and three in 10
say this happens with some frequency (that is, often or sometimes).
Other health effects are headaches, at least an occasional result of sleepiness for 36 percent of
adults; and feeling generally unwell, at least occasional for 33 percent.
1
Impacts rise with frequency of sleepiness. Among the approximately three in 10 Americans who
have feelings of sleepiness on five to seven days a week, 52 percent report often or sometimes
experiencing irritability
when sleepy; 40 percent,
headaches; and 34
percent, feeling unwell
apart from headaches.
Each is far higher than
among those with fewer
experiences of sleepiness.
Not surprisingly, 52
percent overall say that
feeling sleepy can impact
their willingness to go out
in the evening. Other
items are of seemingly
greater import: Nearly
half say feeling sleepy
can impact their ability to
focus their thoughts (48 percent), get exercise (47 percent) or get things done (46 percent).
Fewer, but still substantial numbers, say it can impact their work performance (33 percent) or
relationships with friends and family (26 percent).
Again, these are most prevalent among those who feel sleepy most often. For example, among
those who feel sleepy on no days or one day a week, 25 percent say it may impact their ability to
focus their thoughts. That jumps to 69 percent of those who feel sleepy on five or more days.
Other impacts of feeling sleepy
0-1 days
2-4 days
5-7 days
Mood
34%
64%
74%
Going out in the evening
34
53
70
Focus your thoughts
25
49
69
Get exercise
25
50
64
Get things done
26
46
65
Work performance
18
33
47
Relationships
12
25
41
When they feel sleepy, more Americans say it’s generally because they’re not sleeping well
enough (55 percent) as opposed to not having enough time to sleep (44 percent). Younger adults
are more apt than their elders to lack the time for sleep rather than to blame their sleep quality.
Results by employment status are similar: Half of employed adults say that when they’re sleepy,
it’s because they don’t have enough time to sleep. This falls sharply among retirees, to 31
percent. They’re more apt to cite problems with their sleep quality.
2
Seniors report fewer effects of sleepiness. On average, adults younger than 50 report 3.6 of seven
impacts; those age 50-64 report 3.0; and those 65 and older report 1.9. Illustratively, 69 percent
of 18- to 49-year-olds say that feeling sleepy can impact their mood; this declines to 56 percent
of those age 50-64, then drops steeply to 36 percent of those age 65 and older.
One reason is that older people report less stress in their personal lives, and stress relates to sleep
health overall, prevalence of sleepiness and effects of sleepiness alike.
Sleepiness and sleep health
Sleepiness is associated with overall sleep health. The National Sleep Foundation’s Sleep Health
Index – based on measures of sleep quality, sleep duration and disordered sleep – worsens
among people who report having more sleepy days, more interference with their daily activities
due to sleepiness and more of the sleepiness effects listed above. For example, among those who
typically feel sleepy on one day or no days in a week, the SHI, on a 0-100 scale, is a robust 85.
Among those who feel sleepy on five to seven days, by contrast, the index drops to 64.
The effect is even more dramatic in the
Sleep
Overall
Quality
SHI’s subindex based on sleep quality:
SHI
subindex
It’s 80 in the least sleepy group,
Days feeling sleepy
plummeting to 46 among those who feel
0-1
85
80
sleepy on five to seven days per week.
2-4
77
65
This makes sense; among other items,
5-7
64
46
sleep quality includes feeling well-rested,
dozing unintentionally and whether
Sleepiness interferes with daily
insufficient sleep impacts your daily life.
activities
Rarely/never
81
72
Shown another way, people in the top
Occasionally
71
54
quartile for overall sleep health report
Sometimes/often
66
50
feelings of sleepiness on an average of
Number of impacts due to
1.7 days in a week. Among those in the
sleepiness
lowest SHI quartile, this jumps to an
0-1
82
75
average of 4.6 days.
2-4
76
63
5-7
69
52
There’s also a relationship with self-
reported sleep problems. People who say
they do not have a sleep problem (57 percent of all adults) feel sleepy on an average of 2.4 days
a week; among those who “maybe” have a problem (24 percent) it’s 3.6 days; and it’s 4.4 days
among those who say they do have a sleep problem (19 percent).
3
As noted, stress, a
strong correlate of sleep
health overall, also
relates to sleepiness and
its impacts. People with
no personal stress or
only mild stress report
feeling sleepy on an
average of 2.3 days a
week. That rises to 3.6
days among those with
moderate stress and 4.6
days among people
with severe stress.
On average, people
with little or no stress
report 2.1 out of seven
sleepiness impacts tested in this survey; that rises to 3.9 among people with moderate stress and
4.6 among those with severe stress. Thirty-nine percent of those with less stress say that
sleepiness can impact their mood, for example; that jumps to 75 percent of those with moderate
stress and 87 percent with severe stress.
Stress, as mentioned, declines with age. Fifty-seven percent of those under 50 say they have
moderate or severe personal stress. That eases to 47 percent of 50 to 64-year-olds and drops to 32
percent of seniors. Similarly, 53 percent of employed people report moderate or severe stress,
declining to 34 percent of retirees.
In terms of coping mechanisms, Americans are most apt by far to try simply to “shake off”
sleepiness – 62 percent say this is often or sometimes their approach. A third to three in 10 report
getting fresh air, coffee, a nap or a
Dealing with sleepiness
caffeinated beverage that’s not coffee.
Shake it off
62%
Fewer, about two in 10, have a sugary
Fresh air
35
snack, and 11 percent chew gum. Last on
Coffee
33
Nap
31
the list are taking prescription or
Soda/caffeinated drink
30
nonprescription stimulants; 3 percent report
Sugary snack
22
using either of these when feeling sleepy.
Gum
11
Rx stimulant
3
There are some notable differences by
OTC stimulant
3
frequency of sleepiness. Having a sugary
snack and taking a nap both are about twice as prevalent among people who most often
experience sleepiness, compared with those who are sleepy least often. People with the highest
levels of sleepiness also are most apt to take the leading approach to coping – “shake it off and
keep going.”
4
METHODOLOGY – This survey for the National Sleep Foundation was conducted among a
random national sample of 1,011 adults, Dec. 13-20, 2019. Results have a margin of sampling
error of 3.4 points for the full sample. Error margins are larger for subgroups.
The survey was produced by
Langer Research Associates
of New York, N.Y., with sampling and
data collection by Ipsos Public Affairs via its online KnowledgePanel®, which provides internet
access to randomly recruited participants.
Full results follow. * = <0.5%
1-14 previously released.
15. Other than at bedtime or when you wake up, how many days during a typical week do
you have some feelings of being sleepy?
0 days
1-2 days
3-4 days
5-6 days
7 days
No opin.
Mean
SD
12/20/19
16
32
24
11
16
0
3.1
2.3
16. How often, if at all, does sleepiness interfere with your daily activities?
------ More often -----
---- Less often ----
NET
Often
Sometimes
Occasionally
NET
Rarely
Never
Skipped
12/20/19
23
6
17
17
60
39
21
*
17. When you feel sleepy, does it ever impact any of these, or not?
12/20/19 – Summary Table
Yes, impacts
No, doesn’t
Skipped
a. Your ability to get things done
46
54
*
b. Your ability to focus your thoughts
48
52
*
c. Your work performance
33
67
*
d. Your mood
58
42
*
e. Your relationships with friends and family
26
74
*
f. Your willingness to go out in the evening
52
47
*
g. Your ability to get exercise
47
53
*
18. How often, if at all, do these things happen when you’re feeling sleepy?
12/20/19 – Summary Table
--- More often ----
---- Less often ----
NET
Oft.
Smtims
Occ.
NET
Rarely
Never
Skip
a. You develop a headache
22
7
15
14
64
31
33
*
b. Apart from a headache,
you feel physically unwell
18
6
12
15
66
37
29
1
c. You become irritable
31
10
21
24
45
29
16
*
19. When you feel sleepy, what’s the bigger reason – is it because you’re not getting
time to sleep or because you’re not sleeping well enough?
Not getting enough time to sleep
Not sleeping well enough
Skipped
12/20/19
44
55
1
5