Apple Watch study finds many Americans are getting inadequate sleep

by mcardinal

Lauren Dempsey, MS in Biomedicine and Law, RN, FISM News 


According to a new study released by Brigham and Women’s Hospital, most adults aren’t getting enough sleep at night. The team of researchers found that only about 30% of individuals are getting the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep to support health and wellness. 

The Apple Heart and Movement Study is part of the American Heart Association’s (AHA) framework of Life’s Essential 8 (LS8) and is focused on sleep, which was recently just added to the framework as a metric tool to improve cardiovascular health. 

The study evaluated data collected by Apple Watch over a four-month period between February 1st, 2022, and June 1st, 2022. Researchers were able to analyze the data for more than 2.9 million nights of sleep and more than 42,000 participants, finding that 31.2% of participants slept the recommended minimum of seven hours of sleep and recorded an average of six hours and 27 minutes of sleep per night. 

The data also indicated that 39.7% of people slept six to seven hours, 20.3% slept five to six hours, and 8.8% slept fewer than five hours. Washington, South Dakota, and Idaho had the highest amount of participants meeting the recommended amount of sleep, while Hawaii, Mississippi, and West Virginia had the lowest. 

In every state, fewer than 40% of participants met the AHA recommendation for sleep duration; however, the researchers acknowledge that this could be due to a number of factors such as time zone, cultural differences, or demographic differences such as age, employment status, and job type. 

The team also looked at differences in sleep start time for participants on weekends and weekdays, finding that bedtime habits varied. On weekdays, people go to bed before 12 am 66.4% of the time, but that number dipped to 56.6% on weekends. 

“Sleep has become a top area of interest in both health research and the wellness space for good reason,” the Apple Heart and Movement Study team explained in a statement. “The duration and consistency of sleep have been linked to a wide range of health topics including cardiovascular disease, metabolism, and brain health, not to mention quality of life.” 

Variations in sleep patterns also impact overall health. A 2020 study conducted by researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital found that older adults with irregular sleep patterns were almost twice as likely to develop cardiovascular disease. The same team of researchers also found that these variations in sleep patterns can lead to harmful metabolic changes associated with obesity, diabetes, and high cholesterol. 

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), sleep is as important as diet and exercise and can improve brain performance, mood, and health. Dr. Marishka Brown, a sleep expert at the NIH, explained, “Healthy sleep encompasses three major things. One is how much sleep you get. Another is sleep quality—that you get uninterrupted and refreshing sleep. The last is a consistent sleep schedule.”

The NIH recommends simple interventions to get better sleep, including a sleep schedule, exercise, avoiding nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol, limiting electronics before bed, getting outside, and creating a good sleep environment. 

The AHA also has a few suggestions aimed at getting the recommended amount of sleep each night, such as charging your device as far away from your bed as possible, using a red filter app at night since the blue light of most devices can impact circadian rhythms and production of melatonin, setting a bedtime alarm, and putting your phone on “do not disturb” overnight.

Adequate sleep is important to quality of life and overall wellness, promotes healing, strengthens the immune system, decreases the risk of chronic disease, and improves mood and energy levels.