Well-Being Mental Health

Worry over the state of the world is keeping Americans up at night

“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.”
Photo of a woman sitting up in bed
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Story at a glance


  • A new survey by Ohio State University found that close to 1 in 5 Americans have trouble falling asleep at night. 

  • The survey also found that almost half of Americans scroll through their phones before bedtime. 

  • Another 37 percent fall asleep with the television on. 

Two years of stressful events, including the coronavirus pandemic, have been keeping worried Americans awake. 

A new survey by Ohio State University found that close to one in five Americans have trouble falling asleep at night. 

“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,” Aneesa Das, professor of internal medicine at Ohio State University said in a media release

“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,” Das added. 

The survey also found that almost half of Americans scroll through their phones before bedtime, while 37 percent fall asleep with the television on. More than a quarter sleep with their pet. 

Both practices can be disruptive to sleep quality as light exposure drives one’s internal clock to communicate that they are supposed to be asleep or awake.  

“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,” Das said. “When we use our smartphones and our TVs right before bed, we increase that bright light exposure at the wrong time.” 

separate study from Northwestern University researchers suggests exposure to ambient light while sleeping at night can lead to an elevated heart rate and increased blood sugar the following day. 

Researchers noted the similarities between the way a person’s nervous system reacts to light both during the day — when light heightens awareness and increases the heart rate — and while a person is asleep. 

“Even though you are asleep, your autonomic nervous system is activated. That’s bad. Usually, your heart rate together with other cardiovascular parameters are lower at night and higher during the day,” Daniela Grimaldi, one of the study’s first authors said at the time. 

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Health professionals recommend establishing a routine each night to ensure the highest sleep quality possible.   

People should aim to go to sleep at roughly the same time each night, avoid blue light, and when possible, sleep in a dark, cool and relaxing room.