The subject of Slate’s most recent collaboration with SurveyMonkey is one near and dear to most of us: sleep. How much? With whom? With your iPhone? We assembled a series of questions intended to create a roadmap of how, when, and where Americans catch their Zs, and used SurveyMonkey Audience, a 2+ million member group of people recruited to answer surveys and share their opinions. (Information on respondents is available here. More information about SurveyMonkey Audience is here.) More than one-half of the survey takers had earned a college degree or above. Sixty percent identified as male, 40 percent as female.
Now—affix your eye mask, adjust the thermostat, and on to the results.
In a society of overstuffed schedules, when exactly do most people do their sleeping? We asked survey takers what time they usually woke up in the morning, and what time they generally went to bed. A majority of the respondents revealed themselves to be early risers: 67 percent get up before 7 a.m., including 26.6 percent who begin the day before 6. Less than 10 percent stay in bed past 9. On the other hand, the survey takers don’t exactly qualify as night owls. 28.8 percent are asleep by 11 p.m., with only one-quarter still awake at midnight.
Channeling our mothers for a moment, we also wondered how often participants were making their beds in the morning. A respectable 32.3 percent—the plurality—completes the chore “all the time,” while a perhaps less respectable 23 percent “never” does.
We also wanted to know: How many hours of sleep do you get each night? Around 40 percent of respondents barely capture the recommended seven to nine hours of shut-eye, logging seven hours for a typical night’s sleep. Twenty-four percent settle for six hours, and less than one-quarter get more than eight.
The next questions got a little more personal. Were the survey takers sleeping alone? For the most part, no. Curiously, almost all (98.9 percent) of the 57.1 percent of respondents who share the bed with another person sleep on a designated side of the mattress.
No word on whether Fido respects these invisible borders. Nearly one-third of participants slumber alongside their pets.
Companionship, of course, can extend beyond humans and even animals. We were curious to find out how long it took participants, upon waking, to reach for their digital other halves: cellphones, tablets, and computers. Nearly 40 percent said they checked an electronic device within 15 minutes of opening their eyes in the morning, while only 20.1 percent held off on glowing screens for more than an hour.
Not that there aren’t other electronic diversions available. Almost 40 percent of respondents have a television in their bedroom. Of the nearly 60 percent of survey takers who watch TV shows or movies in bed, a vast majority (89 percent) do so on their televisions, followed by computers (17.9 percent) and tablets (9.3 percent).
With all these potentially soothing, potentially riling pastimes available, do respondents look to medications to help them sleep? For the most part, not so much. A majority, 61.4 percent, never use sleeping pills or supplements, while the next most sizable chunk—25.4 percent—only take them occasionally.
What picture of sleep we can infer from this survey of Americans? For one thing, it seems to elude us more than we’d like, and to compete with our devices. Sometimes, there are interlopers from the animal kingdom. Beds can be individual or communal, crisscrossed with territorial lines. People do watch television from under the covers, but not as much as you might think. Above all, survey takers appear to develop idiosyncratic sleep habits and mostly stick to them. Let’s celebrate this diversity—at least until someone programs an app to do our sleeping for us.
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