Every country has its own traditions, holidays, languages, nutritious breakfasts and, it turns out, sleep habits. In the "first international public opinion poll on sleep," the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) has taken a closer look at just how different we are between the sheets.
"Although we know that everyone sleeps, the rather remarkable cultural differences within this universal experience have not been adequately explored," International Bedroom Poll expert panel member Namni Goel, Ph.D., said in a statement. "It is NSF's hope that this initial poll will inspire more research on this critical yet understudied topic."
Researchers polled 1,500 residents of six countries -- Mexico, Canada, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States -- between the ages of 25 and 55 about their sleep habits, about topics including bed partners, the components of a relaxing bedroom and preferred pajama style. So how does the U.S. compare?
Japan logged the fewest hours of sleep per weeknight, with an average of just 6 hours and 22 minutes. The U.S. was not far behind at 6 hours and 31 minutes. The majority of American respondents said they get between six and seven hours of sleep on weeknights. Mexico clocked the most sleep, with 35 percent of people saying they sleep for eight hours or more on weeknights. Across the board, respondents snoozed for about 45 extra minutes on weekends or other non-workdays.
The poll also showed that most people aren't sleeping well. Less than half of people in five of the countries said they get a good night's sleep every night or almost every night of the week. Among Americans, 44 percent say they get a good night's sleep every night or almost every night, 31 percent answered a few nights a week, 20 percent rarely sleep well and 5 percent say they never do. Japan was the only country where more than half of the respondents -- 54 percent -- said they get a good night's sleep pretty regularly.
Sleep quality may be affected by how we choose to spend our time before lights out. The majority of Americans use some sort of gadget in the hour before bed, even though we know that doing so triggers our brains to fight fatigue. But it turns out we're not the worst offenders in this regard. In Mexico, 80 percent of respondents say they watch TV before bed, followed by 73 percent of Americans. Japanese respondents were most likely to use a computer, laptop or tablet before bed at 65 percent. Only 51 percent of Americans said the same. Cell phone usage prevails in Canada, with 45 percent of respondents saying they're on their phones before bed, while only 34 percent of Americans used theirs. Mexico has the highest percentage of people who meditate or pray before going to sleep, followed by the U.S., at 62 and 47 percent, respectively. U.K. residents were most likely to opt for a soothing drink before bed or to read a book or magazine in print.
The Impact Of Not Enough Sleep
Perhaps because they seem to get the best rest, the Japanese respondents noted a lesser impact of getting too little shut-eye. For others, skimping on sleep significantly impaired certain aspects of their lives, like work productivity, social life, family responsibilities and mood. Nearly three-quarters of people in the U.S. -- 73 percent -- who say they do not get enough sleep recognize it's impacting their health, second only to Mexico, where 74 percent of respondents said the same.
For all the talk we do here in the States about our lack of appreciation for sleep, Americans seem to be doing a fair share of napping. Over half of U.S. respondents -- 51 percent -- said they'd taken a nap in the previous two weeks. Japan tied with the U.S., followed by the U.K. (45 percent), Germany (44 percent), Mexico (39 percent) and Canada (35 percent).
Click over to the National Sleep Foundation's summary of the findings for even more details, then tell us what you think in the comments below.