People need to get enough sleep to stay healthy. But millions of Americans struggle against busy schedules and insomnia to get the rest they need.
The Standard wanted to figure out which parts of the Bay Area are the most sleep-deprived, and found that, surprisingly, most of the region gets more sleep than the rest of the country. But that still leaves a large portion of local residents falling short on their much-needed shut-eye.
Nationally, about 33% of adults usually get insufficient sleep, which is defined as less than seven hours within a 24-hour period by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which analyzed telephone survey data collected in 2020 and reported its findings in December.
In the Bay Area, only Solano County got less sleep than the national average, with about 35% of adults reporting getting less than the recommended seven hours. In San Francisco about 30% of adults missed the seven-hour threshold, while Marin was the most well-rested county, with less than 27% of adults falling short of sleep goals.
Insufficient sleep is associated with many chronic diseases, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity and depression. It’s also responsible for car crashes and industrial errors that cause substantial injuries across the country each year, according to the CDC report.
Dr. Kin Yuen, a sleep medicine specialist at UCSF, was struck by the fact that the CDC study found that a third of Americans are sleep-deprived.
“That’s pretty darn high,” Yuen said.
Who’s Sleepless in San Francisco?
On the other hand, Yuen was glad to see that San Franciscans got more sleep than the average American. Though Yuen was not a researcher on the CDC study, she hypothesized that San Francisco may be doing better than other parts of the country due to a widespread understanding of the importance of a good night’s sleep.
“I think, in general, around the city we’re pretty sleep-aware,” Yuen said.
She speculated that because many locals work in tech-related industries, they might be quick to embrace sleep-tracking apps that can help people build strong sleep hygiene.
Previous research also found that people with long commutes are more likely to have inactive lifestyles and sleep problems. Living in the nation’s work-from-home capital, more San Franciscans may be using that extra spare time to burn off their stress, leaving them ready for sleep when bedtime comes.
Within San Francisco, Treasure Island and Bayview-Hunters Point both have higher insufficient sleep rates than the national average. The city’s other sleepless hotspots include southern regions such as Excelsior and Visitacion Valley, as well as more central neighborhoods like the Tenderloin and SoMa. San Franciscans in the Marina are getting the best rest, with three-quarters reporting they get sufficient sleep.
Though the CDC report does not elaborate on why some San Francisco neighborhoods get more sleep than others, generally speaking, socioeconomic class can be a big factor in whether or not people get enough sleep. Especially during 2020, when the CDC survey was conducted, essential workers, ranging from nurses to grocery store employees to delivery drivers, were all pushed to work intense shifts. Pandemic or not, many people in those types of blue-collar roles need to clock in early in the morning or work till late at night, which can make it hard to get enough sleep, Yuen said.
Light pollution from street lights and a noisy neighborhood can also be barriers to getting a good night’s sleep, Yuen added.
However, all people naturally have different biological clocks that they’re born with. Night owls tend to get the least sleep, Yuen said. For some, that’s actually OK. Even though the CDC report set its sleep-deprivation standard at seven hours, everyone’s body needs a different amount of sleep to stay refreshed.
That amount varies with age. People in their 20s and 30s need seven or eight hours of sleep, while older people around 70 years old begin sleeping less at night, but feel a stronger need to nap during the day, Yuen said. Teenagers, on the other hand, require closer to nine hours.
The need for teens to get more sleep led to a recent California law pushing back the start time of high schools across the state.
Noah Baustin can be reached at [email protected]