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Which cities in America have the best sleep?

Sleep can be an elusive thing, often hindered through stresses, strains, and even the environment around us. To better understand the quality of sleep in the United States of America, Sleep Junkie took a look at the levels and quality of sleep across 21 cities around the nation.

During the study, we analyzed data on light pollution and transport noise pollution in each city. Additionally, we conducted a survey to discover the percentage of people in each city getting 7+ hours of sleep, how many regularly say they are getting a good night’s sleep, and the percentage of people who believe they live in a peaceful environment.

The cities that don’t sleep

Whilst collecting data into the best cities for sleep, we were also able to discover the cities that are the worst for sleep. The three cities with the worst level and quality of sleep were:

  • 1) Philadelphia, PA

    The state of Pennsylvania is home to the worst city for sleep, Philadelphia. Our research found the Pennsylvanian city has the 4th highest amount of light pollution of the cities studied. The survey also revealed that just a quarter of adults (25%) get the recommended 7+ hours of sleep per night, which is 8.4% less than the national average. The quality of sleep from respondents in Philadelphia was the second lowest reported, with only 40% stating that they get regular, good quality sleep.

    Philadelphia’s overall sleep score (out of 100)
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  • 2) Phoenix, AZ

    Phoenix, Arizona, was found to have the lowest number of adults getting 7+ hours of sleep a night, with a quarter (261,792) of Phoenix’s 1,090,799 adult residents saying they sleep more than 7 hours a night.

    Our survey also showed Phoenix to be the second least peaceful environment to sleep in, with only Los Angeles found to be less peaceful.

    Residents who get 7+ hours of sleep per night in Phoenix
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  • 3) Austin, TX

    The results revealed that just a quarter of Austin’s 695,227 adult population get the recommended 7+ hours of sleep per night and more than half (58%) don’t regularly get good quality sleep, compared to the nation’s average of 49%.

    Residents who don’t regularly get good quality sleep in Austin
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Cities that need to wake up

While the three above came last overall, based on the combination of the survey results and the levels of light and noise pollution reported in each city, the worst in each of the categories were:

Washington, DC is the most light polluted city in the USA

Washington, DC and Chicago were the clear outliers in the study when it came to light pollution, with both reporting over 20% more light pollution than the 3rd worst city, Houston, TX. In comparison to the best city for light pollution (San Jose), Washington, DC produces over 3 times the amount, emitting 17700 μcd/m2.

High levels of light pollution can, according to the International Dark-Sky Association, affect our circadian rhythm (biological clock)–the sleep-wake pattern that is governed by the day-night cycle. By disrupting the circadian rhythm, and the production of the hormone melatonin, light pollution can have adverse effects on the immune system, cholesterol, and the functioning of the thyroid, pancreas, adrenal glands, and other vital organs.

Los Angeles, CA is the noisest and least peaceful city in America

Based on an analysis of noise above 70 dBA (the World Health Organization’s defined noise pollution figure), over 5% of Los Angeles is consistently producing more than this figure. This means, on average, 199,523 residents in LA are exposed to a running vacuum cleaner level of noise 24/7.

The noise levels emitted from LA go some way to explaining why the city was also found to be the least peaceful city in the USA.

Residents in San Diego, CA are least likely to receive good quality sleep

For residents in San Diego, sleeping isn't the easiest. 70% of residents in the California city sleep for less than 7+ hours a night, and even when they are asleep, 61% say they don’t get regular good quality sleep.

Like Los Angeles, San Diego has its challenges with noise pollution; 4.82% of the city exceeds the 70 dBA noise pollution threshold.

The three best cities for sleep:

At the other end of the spectrum, some cities defy the sleepless trends and embrace their sleep. So what are the cities with the best sleeping patterns and environments?

  • 1) San Antonio, TX

    San Antonio took the top spot based on our analysis, with 3 of every 5 residents in the city regularly getting a good night’s sleep and 9 in 10 of the population believing they live in a peaceful environment. What’s more, nearly half (48%) of the population in San Antonio get 7+ hours of sleep per night, which is double that of Phoenix and San Jose and almost 15% higher than the national average, making San Antonio the best city for sleep in the US.

    San Antonio’s overall sleep score (out of 100)
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  • 2) San Francisco, CA

    Residents of San Francisco, CA are the lucky ones, sitting in the top 5 cities with the least noise pollution in the US–just 1.29% of the city consistently exceeds 70 dBA. It’s not just pollution that San Francisco scored well in. In fact, 82% of people living in San Francisco believe that they live in a peaceful environment (understandable considering the low levels of noise), while 45% of the population get 7 or more hours of sleep per night, making the Californian city the 2nd highest to meet the recommended hours of sleep according to our study.

    Residents who believe they live in a peaceful environment in San Francisco
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  • 3) Indianapolis, IN

    In Indianapolis, more than half (52%) of residents say they get regular good quality sleep, putting the city above the nation’s average.

    The Indiana state capital also came out higher than the nation's average in regards to the numbers of people who believe they live in a peaceful environment (85.2%) and the numbers of people that sleep for 7 hours or more each night.

    Residents who say they get regular good quality sleep in Indianapolis
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Conclusion

In 2016, the CDC estimated that more than a third of Americans did not get enough sleep, sleeping less than 7 hours per night. However, by surveying US citizens residing in 21 major cities, we found the number of people not getting enough sleep could be significantly higher than first thought, with just a third (33.4%) of US adults living in the major cities analyzed sleeping 7 or more hours a night, even dropping to 25% in some cities.

Our analysis of the levels of light and transport noise pollution in each of the cities, in addition to our survey of the respective cities’ citizens, indicates millions of city dwellers across America are living in environments that could interfere with sleeping patterns and lead to people not having the recommended amount of sleep each night; which can lead to an increased risk of developing chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and frequent mental distress.

In response to our findings, Meg Riley, editor at Sleep Junkie, comments:

“Getting a good night's sleep is so important for both your mental and physical wellbeing and it has been found that having problems sleeping can affect your work. It’s interesting to see that only 24% of the population within Phoenix and San Jose get 7+ hours of sleep every night even though both cities scored high for the percentage of the population who believe they live in a peaceful environment. This shows that even though environments may be peaceful, factors such as transport noise and light pollution have a big impact on how you sleep.”

“There are some changes which have been found to help you sleep better, including setting up the light and temperature levels before heading to bed, going to bed at nearly the same time every night, and investing in a new sleep system such as a new mattress or bed frame. Research has also found that hitting the snooze button actually results in you feeling more tired, so although getting up on your first alarm is sometimes difficult, it will reduce tiredness throughout the day.”

Methodology

In order to establish the ‘best’ cities for sleep, we scored some of the biggest cities in the US on a range of factors including levels of light pollution, transport noise pollution, and the sleep quality of residents. Light pollution data was sourced from the Light Pollution Map with measurements taken from the center point of each city. Transport noise data was sourced from the National Transportation Noise Map, with city center locations analyzed to establish how many ‘high’ A-weighted decibel (dBA) color pixels there were for each location. All other metrics (percentage of population who get 7+ hours sleep, percentage of population who regularly get good quality sleep, and percentage of population who believe they live in a peaceful environment) were all sourced from a survey conducted by Censuswide on behalf of Sleep Junkie with 2,006 respondents across the US. Fieldwork was carried out between May 24th, 2019 and June 2nd, 2019. Censuswide abides by and employs members of the Market Research Society. All survey panellists are double opted in (with an opt-in and validation process) in line with MRS and ESOMAR standards.

Sources

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