(COLUMBUS, Ohio) – A new national survey commissioned by The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center finds all of the changes and turmoil over the past few years isn’t just stressing Americans out, it’s keeping them up at night. After a global pandemic, political division and two years of turbulent events, nearly one in five Americans say they struggle to fall asleep due to stress and worry over the state of the world.
“Everybody’s stressed and there’s lots of news. So I think the increase in stress may be one of those things that’s causing more people to lose sleep. Here at Ohio State, there was a 29 percent increase in referrals for insomnia from 2018 to 2021,” said Dr. Aneesa Das, professor of internal medicine at Ohio State Wexner Medical Center. “Stress can increase your heart rate, increase your blood pressure, make you have an upset stomach and cause muscle tension. All of those things increase our alertness, making it harder to fall asleep.”
The survey also found that many Americans try to mitigate sleep issues by using bad habits, especially when it comes to screen time. Nearly half of Americans say they use their phones right before bed and 37% fall asleep with the TV on.
“Our Circadian drive is that central clock telling us when we’re supposed to be awake and asleep, and that is driven by light more than anything. When we use our smartphones and our TVs right before bed, we increase that bright light exposure at the wrong time,” said Das. “What we should be doing is getting lots of bright, natural sunlight in the morning and getting outdoors as much as possible. And then at nighttime, after the sun sets, we want to limit that light exposure.”
Das says there are other simple behavioral adjustments that can create major improvements to sleep patterns, including keeping your bedroom cool, dark and quiet and only spending time in bed when it is time to sleep. Cognitive behavioral therapies like meditation and muscle relaxation can also be helpful, and keeping bedtimes and wake times consistent, even on the weekends, will help create a healthy sleep schedule.
If you’re unable to improve your sleep on your own, speak with your primary care physician first, who can determine if additional methods like sleep restriction may be helpful, or if your insomnia is a symptom of an underlying health condition.
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This survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center from July 21 – July 25, 2022 among 2,040 U.S. adults ages 18 and older. The sampling precision of Harris online polls is measured by using a Bayesian credible interval. For this study, the sample data is accurate to within + 2.8 percentage points using a 95% confidence level. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables and subgroup sample sizes, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.