On July 11th organizations and groups around the world will be celebrating World Population Day and looking at the 7 billion souls currently inhabiting the earth from all different directions. We thought it would be interesting to look at the world population from our favorite point of view, sleep. We wondered if Americans are really the most sleep-deprived and if people in developing countries adhere to different sleep schedules. Research efforts into sleep are continually finding more and more ways that the amount of sleep we get directly impacts our lives. For this reason, as we are pondering how to feed our rapidly growing population and considering how to make modern medicine more accessible to more of those 7 billion people, we should also be looking at how differences in sleep across cultures contributes to our common problems.
Who Gets the Most Sleep
In truth, it is hard to say with complete certainty which country averages the most sleep because of limited data and conflicting results. In a series of surveys from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris, citizens of France reported sleeping the most at 530 minutes or 8.8 hours. However, another survey conducted by the Phillips Center for Health and Wellbeing actually lists France as one of the most sleep-deprived countries. In this survey, residents of Turkey, India, and the United Arab Emirates had the highest percentage of respondents that felt like they got enough sleep at 85%, 86%, and 88% respectively. It is also difficult to determine because many countries are not included in the data. This means that it is entirely possible that countries in the developing world get more sleep than those in the developed world.
Even though we cannot determine which country gets the most sleep, most experts agree that we, as a global population, are suffering from widespread sleep deprivation which means even those in countries that sleep the most may not be getting as much sleep as they need.
Who gets the Least Sleep
Again, limited data and lack of inclusion makes this a difficult question to answer. However, in looking at sleep-deprivation in students, a Boston College study found that American students are the most sleep deprived. In fact, barely any students surveyed are getting the sleep they need. Across those in the 9 -10 year old age group, 73% are not getting the sleep they need and that only gets worse as they get older with 80% of those 13-14 years of age getting less sleep than they need. Our attitudes about sleep and our commitment to getting the sleep we need are generally set by society and culture. As this study included at a wide range of countries, if you extrapolate the student data out over the entire population, it is likely that Americans are one of the countries that get the least sleep. While American students had the highest percentages, those in New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait were close behind.