What Keeps Americans Up at Night?

We surveyed 2,000 Americans to learn what stressors are keeping them up at night.

By Ashley Little

Jan 4th, 2021

In the current state of the world, there’s plenty to be stressed out about. One of the first things to go awry in stressful times is a healthy sleep schedule. Having a lot on the mind can be extremely disruptive to a good night’s sleep. 

We wanted to take a look at all the factors that are keeping people up at night, especially during the global COVID-19 pandemic. OnePoll, on behalf of Mattress Advisor, asked 2,000 Americans about the obstacles getting in the way of a good night’s rest. 

As it turns out, 66% of Americans are desperate for a good night’s rest. On average, it takes Americans 25 minutes to fall asleep, and then they’re only getting six hours of sleep.

So what’s causing all these sleep troubles? Keep reading to learn what we found.

Top 15 Factors Keeping Americans Up at Night

We asked Americans: What keeps you up at night? 

Here are the top factors we found that interrupt a good night’s sleep: 

  1. COVID-19 news – 63%
  2. Stress about their personal lives – 62%
  3. General aches and pain – 61%
  4. Financial stress – 59%
  5. Stress about work – 46%
  6. Outside noise – 54%
  7. Stayed up too late – 52%
  8. Poor mattress quality – 52%
  9. Nightmares – 50%
  10. Partner snores – 47%
  11. The news (general) – 46%
  12. Kids wouldn’t fall asleep – 46%
  13. Pets were making noise – 44%
  14. Politics – 40%
  15. Squeaky bed frame – 37%

Stress and Sleep

An overwhelming amount of Americans (63%) are having trouble sleeping due to COVID-19 news. In fact, across the board we saw that many of American’s sleep troubles tie back to stress

Stress about their personal lives (62%), financial stress (59%), and stress about work (46%) all made it into the top five reasons people are kept up at night. 

You may have noticed before in a time when you were stressed that it’s harder to clear your mind and fall asleep. Stress can cause major sleep disruptions due to an increase in the amount of cortisol in the body. 

To get a good night’s rest takes more than just telling yourself to relax. Managing your stress for better sleep takes a holistic approach at understanding your stressors, addressing them, and finding ways to better manage them moving forward. Many people find exercising, meditating, and creating a bedroom wind-down routine to be an effective way to soothe any stress in the way of sleep.

Environmental Disruptions

Another pattern we noticed relates to environmental disruptions such as outside noise (54%), partner snoring (47%), kids wouldn’t fall asleep (46%), and pets making too much noise (44%). 

A noisy environment is never conducive to a night of peaceful sleep, and these distractions can be frustrating. Loud noises, bright sounds, or waking up from a partner’s tossing and turning are the types of annoyance many people deal with.

The good news is, there is a lot you can control when it comes to setting up your ideal sleep space with noise machines, blackout curtains, a mattress for couples that isolates motion, and other sleep accessories to match your needs. 

Comfort Issues

Discomfort also seems to play a large role in keeping people from sleeping well. General aches and pains (61%) and a poor mattress quality (52%) both affect over half of our respondents. 

While some aches and pains are more complicated to control, you can address some of these discomfort issues by buying a better mattress that is suited to your body type and other sleep preferences. 

Dreams and Nightmares

Nightmares affected 50% of our respondents. We all dream, and we’ve all had a nightmare here and there (some more frequently than others) so we wanted to take a deeper look at what kinds of nightmares are keeping people up at night. 

Fears Influencing Nightmares

Nightmares are usually fueled by fears. The top five fears that Americans said influence their bad dreams are: 

  1. Relationship issues – 50%
  2. Family worries – 50%
  3. Health concerns – 50%
  4. Work/career worries – 43%
  5. General well-being – 35%

Concerns about interpersonal relationships between significant others or loved ones topped the list when it comes to fears that fuel Americans nightmares. Another large portion (43%) faces nightmares about their jobs and careers.

Most Common Nightmares

The survey also found the top nightmares that Americans are haunted by in their dreams. These include:

  1. Being chased – 40%
  2. Falling – 36%
  3. Being attacked – 31%
  4. Running late for something – 29%
  5. Lost/trapped somewhere – 29%
  6. Waking up late – 27%
  7. Someone you love is dying – 27%
  8. Visited by a deceased loved one – 26%
  9. Dying – 24%
  10. Partner leaving you – 24%
  11. Have to go back to high school – 23%
  12. Unprepared for a test/exam – 22%
  13. Forgot to prepare for an important meeting – 22%
  14. Naked in public – 22%
  15. Teeth are falling out – 21%
  16. Sustaining an injury – 20%
  17. Being paralyzed – 20%
  18. Drowning – 20%
  19. House is burning down – 17%
  20. Being buried alive – 15%

Being chased (40%), falling (36%), and being attacked (31%) topped the list for the most common nightmares Americans are facing. 

America’s Strangest Dreams

We also asked respondents to share their strangest dream. These include:

  • Being chased by a giant frog. 
  • I gave birth to a baked potato. She had a cute little face with blue eyeshadow and big red lips. Everyone thought she was adorable and no one seemed to notice that she was a potato. 
  • Being chased by a skunk and it chuckling at me. 
  • Eating from the gutter.
  • Having to travel to Switzerland by plane by myself and not wanting to go. 
  • One in which I went to a melon farm and ate them all.
  • That I traveled to a different planet and lived there by myself. 
  • Being abducted by aliens. 
  • Being chased by a dragon.
  • Walking into a room filled with snakes. 

Responses have been edited for length/clarity.

With all of these unique dreams and frightening nightmares, it’s not wonder Americans are having trouble sleeping! In fact, 40% of our respondents said they can’t remember the last time they got a good night’s sleep. 

And once they do finally fall asleep, the trouble doesn’t end. On average, respondents shared that they wake up in the middle of the night an average of seven times throughout the week.

This struggle for good sleep is frustrating (80% of our respondents agreed) but it doesn’t have to stay that way. With the right resources and tools, a good night’s sleep isn’t as far away as it may seem. 

Keep browsing on Mattress Advisor to find your path to a better night’s sleep. Don’t know where to start? Take a look at some of our resources below.