To prevent those problems and ensure quality sleep, experts suggest limiting screen time before bed, creating a consistent routine, avoiding naps and maintaining a relaxing environment.
“When you enter the bedroom, it should be a sign for your body that it’s time to go to bed,” Dr. Basner said.
That’s why he found the results of his analysis so encouraging: The public, it seems, is developing a healthier relationship with sleep.
Americans were able to eke out extra sleep largely by heading to bed sooner and, to a lesser degree, by waking up later, the researchers found.
That changing weeknight bedtime — a shift earlier of 66 seconds each year — was made possible in part by less reading and television watching before bed.
While Americans added about 30 seconds of television watching to their weekday routine each year, they were doing less of it in the hours before bed, freeing themselves to go to sleep a bit earlier, the researchers found. Each year, the number of people who said they watched television or movies before bed on weeknights shrank by about 0.22 percent.
That finding aligns with data from Nielsen, the television research firm, which suggests that Americans are taking more control over how they view shows and movies by watching less live television late at night and more through other means, such as internet-connected devices.
Television on Our Own Terms
Americans have been watching less live television late at night as they use television-connected devices more.
That wasn’t the only reason Americans had more time to sleep. They also dedicated less of their time to a number of activities, including travel to work and school, eating and drinking, housework and consumer purchases.
“These are all activities that you can do nowadays online,” Dr. Basner said. “You can do grocery shopping online. You bank online. You can do administrative tasks online.”
[Also read: How to Get a Better Night’s Sleep]
While the gains in sleep were significant, they were not universally shared. The researchers, for example, did not find statistically significant gains for the unemployed and others not in the labor force.
The analysis relied on data from more than 180,000 people who participated in the American Time Use Survey, a questionnaire conducted by the Census Bureau about the activities that comprise each respondent’s day.
The responses represent the population aged 15 and older and excluded active military members, prisoners and nursing home residents.