Gen Zzz? Younger Americans prioritize sleep more — but most pass out still using their phones

NEW YORK — Forget about counting sheep! The top things people think about to get a good night’s sleep are their favorite moments of the past day (45%), their partner or family (44%), and work (36%), a new survey reveals.

The poll of 2,000 U.S. adults, split evenly by generation, revealed that while a common belief among Americans may be that thinking about work before bed prevents a good night’s rest, thinking about your career before bed actually could help you sleep soundly. The research also delved into the latest insights tied to Americans’ sleep habits and bedtime routines and discovered several differences depending on when you were born.

Conducted by OnePoll for Serta Simmons Bedding, the survey found that millennials (56%) are the most likely group to think about their favorite moments of the past day before they doze off. Meanwhile, Gen X (39%) is least likely to think about their day and most likely of all the generations to think about their career (38%).

That’s not the only generational differences when it comes to sleep habits. The survey also found that Gen Z is most likely to prioritize sleep in general (61%) and are most likely to not finish their nighttime routine before dozing off for the day. Gen Zers are the most likely to fall asleep with their phone (68%), forget to brush their teeth (53%), or fall asleep with their day clothes on (47%).

Meanwhile, Gen X appears to be the best at unplugging before bed, as they are the generation that is the least likely to fall asleep with their phone (25%).

gen z sleep

Additionally, recent research explored how much time the average person spends getting ready for bed and found that, on average, an individual spends 162 hours on their nighttime routines over the year (over 26 minutes per day). What goes into that routine can differ with age. More than one-third of millennials take showers or baths before bed (36%) compared to 19 percent of Gen Z respondents. More than a quarter of boomers (28%) need to watch a television series or movie before they shut their eyes for the night, compared to just 19 percent of Gen Z.

Generation Z’s nighttime routine predominantly consists of turning on a fan (22%), putting on a sleep mask (21%), writing in a journal (20%), reading (20%), listening to music (20%), and creating a to-do list for the next day (20%).

Moreover, Gen Zers don’t want to sacrifice any of their nighttime rituals — 18–26-year-olds are most likely to instead shorten their morning routines (43%) whereas Gen X (40%) and boomers (39%) are most likely to condense their bedtime routine to get more shut-eye.

The survey also looked at when people go to sleep, with 38 percent of people describing themselves as early birds and 22 percent referring to themselves as night owls (33% responded they are both equally early birds and night owls). In addition to age differences, geography reflects differences in sleep routines, with the highest concentration of self-reported early birds living in the Northeast (41%) and the highest proportion of night owls (33%) living in the Southeast.

“While generations may differ in their sleep and getting-ready-for-bed habits, creating and sticking to a consistent sleep routine can help people of any age improve their sleep quality,” says Suann Griffin, Consumer Insights, Serta Simmons Bedding, in a statement. “This includes pre-sleep rituals — from meditation to taking a warm bath or journaling — as well as maintaining the same sleep and wake times, regardless of the season.”

How do people define a good night’s sleep? For most, the telltale signs are sleeping uninterrupted (41%) and waking up before an alarm (33%). If this is the case, at least a portion of the population may be sleeping well, with nearly one-third of Americans responding that they don’t usually wake up with an alarm clock (29%).

Survey methodology:

This random double-opt-in survey of 2,000 U.S. adults split evenly by generation (500 Gen Z, 500 millennials, 500 Gen X, and 500 baby boomers) was commissioned by Serta Simmons Bedding between July 27 and Aug. 2, 2023. It was conducted by market research company OnePoll, whose team members are members of the Market Research Society and have corporate membership to the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) and the European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research (ESOMAR).

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About the Author

Chris Melore

Chris Melore has been a writer, researcher, editor, and producer in the New York-area since 2006. He won a local Emmy award for his work in sports television in 2011.

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