Who Sleeps Worst in the US? The Surprising Truth

Who Sleeps Worst in the US? The Surprising Truth by Kelly BulkeleyAn excellent guest post on Ryan Hurd’s Dream Studies website by A.L. Castonguay looks at sleep as a misunderstood public health issue.  Specifically, who in America is sleeping relatively well, and who is sleeping poorly?  The latter group is important to identify because inadequate sleep can lead to physical, emotional, and cognitive problems–not to mention disrupted, diminished dreaming.

Castonguay draws upon data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on sleeplessness in the US to discuss factors of age, region, employment status, and obesity, among other demographic variables.  Castonguay’s analysis shows that people who most often report sleeplessness, “defined as insufficient sleep (less than 7 hours per night) on more than 14 days within the past 30, are predominantly people of color…between the ages of 25-44, unable to work, and obese.”

These findings raise a number of questions about the cultural and behavioral influences on sleep.  I have also found in previous research that poor sleep corresponds to economic anxieties and employment concerns (e.g., Chapter 5, “Work and Money,” of American Dreamers).  I just received data from a new demographic survey of American adults, and a quick scan of the results point in the same direction–people at the lower end of the income scale sleep worse than people at the top end.

The obesity figures are striking, especially when shown on a regional map of the US.  The Southern part of the US has the highest proportion both of people who are obese and who get insufficient sleep.  We don’t know what’s cause and effect, but it seems there’s a strong and dynamic relationship between the two problems.

It turns out that the states with the lowest relative frequencies of insufficient sleep are California, Oregon, and the Dakotas.  Who knew?

One point Castonguay doesn’t mention that intrigues me is the relatively good sleep of Asians and Hispanics compared to other people of color (Black, American Indian, Multiracial).  The number of participants in these racial/ethnic groups may be low and thus less statistically representative, but the figures are consistent with hints I’ve found in my own research.

If, as the topline results indicate, culture plays a role in quality of sleep, we need a lot more detailed information about how individual people’s sleep experiences are shaped by the multiple strands of cultural influence, including ethnic background, economic status, education, family life, and eating behaviors.

 

Lucid Dreaming Quiz Answers

Lucid Dreaming Quiz Answers by Kelly BulkeleyWho is more likely to say they have had a dream of being aware they are dreaming:

Men or women?  Women 66.8%, Men 59.8%

People between the ages of 30 and 49 or people age 65 and older?  Between 30 and 49 68.6%, 65+ 54.8%

Whites, African-Americans, or Hispanics? Hispanics 67.3%, Whites 62.4%, African-Americans 58.9%

People who make less than $25K a year or people who make more than $100K a year? <$25K 67.8%, $100K+ 64.8%

People who are politically progressive or people who are very conservative? Progressives 68.9%, Very Conservatives 58.3%

People who live in the Southern US or people who live in the Western US? Western 66%, Southern 59.6%

McCain voters or Obama voters? Obama 67.3%, McCain 56.8%

People who say they are “spiritual not religious” or people who say they are neither spiritual nor religious? Spiritual not religious 66.1%, neither spiritual nor religious 59.4%.

OK, what do you think we should we make of these results?

The differences aren’t huge, and in every case the low end of the spectrum is still greater than 50%.  I’d say these findings, based on a survey of 2992 American adults, adds more evidence to the idea that lucid dreaming is a widespread phenomenon among the general public.

Women tend to remember dreams than men, and younger people tend to remember usually recall more dreams than older people, so the results on gender and age make sense.

The racial/ethnic finding is intriguing.  I don’t know of any other research on this question.

The political results are certainly consistent with my previous research on this topic. 

The political dynamic may account for the regional difference, with somewhat more lucid dream recall in the West than the South.  As a California native this seemed an obvious one to me, but no one guessed it.

The spirituality/religion results mayreflect the appeal of lucid dreaming to people who are spiritual seekers of one form or another. 

The income difference isn’t that large.  From what I can tell of the results from the whole survey, income has more of an impact on the recall of frightening dreams (higher among those lower on the income scale).