You want to get great sleep — but then you lay in bed worrying. Sound familiar? You are far from alone — a Sleepopolis survey of 2,000 participants found that 61% of women and 39% of men struggled with falling and staying asleep. We worry about inflation the most, along with health care affordability, crime, schools, racism, unemployment, and other problems. But a new study from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine shows that a full third of Americans are staying up at night with a common worry — the environment.
The 2023 survey of 2,005 adults took place in late March, revealing 32% of adults “always or often” lose sleep at night worrying about environmental issues. Overall, more than 63% lose sleep about it sometimes (adding together the results from those who reported “rarely” to “always”). Men were more worried than women, with 38% of men saying they “often or always” worry, while 25% of women worry that same amount. This varies from the results of the Sleepopolis study, which showed that women are generally losing sleep more than men, potentially proving they are worrying about other topics more often.
But, the environment is much less of a concern to senior adults. Over half, 58%, of participants over 55 say they’ve never lost sleep due to worries about environmental issues. Younger generations are more concerned. Around one in five 18-24 year olds always lose sleep over this, as do similar amounts in the 25-34 and 35-44 age groups.
The survey reported regional differences too, with people in the South and Midwest being much more likely to report that they’ve never lost sleep over this topic.
Other larger surveys, such as a 2022 Pew Research survey of over 5,000, confirm similar results that the environment is weighing on our minds, with 42% calling it a “very big problem” and another 27% labeling it a “moderately big problem.”
For those who haven’t been losing sleep over global warming and air pollution, here are some of the top concerns Americans are having on this topic, according to an article by Environmental Protection:
- Deforestation: As the population grows, more land is at risk of deforestation, leading to less open land, more crowded areas, and loss of biodiversity in our natural habitats
- Pollution: Is your city on the American Lung Association’s most polluted areas? Air pollution has numerous health implications, such as breathing issues, that might be keeping you awake at night worrying.
- Water pollution: Chemicals, sewage, garbage, and more make their way into our main waterways, impacting wildlife, and complicating the purification process for some.
- Natural resources running out: Oil, minerals, and metals will run out eventually. Water and energy are top concerns, with increasing demand over the next decades.
- Global warming: Local climates and weather patterns change, even sparking wildfires, with worldwide impact as glaciers melt and the earth’s temperature rises.
If you are losing sleep over these topics, reach out to mental health professionals to try to mitigate worry, and consider getting involved with a local environmental cause to make a positive impact. You just might sleep a little more soundly at night knowing you did your part for planet Earth.
Doherty, Carroll; Gómez, Vianney. “By a wide margin, Americans view inflation as the top problem facing the country today,” Pew Research Center. May 12, 2022.
American Academy of Sleep Medicine, “AASM Sleep Prioritization Survey
Losing Sleep to Environmental Worries,” https://aasm.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/04/sleep-prioritization-survey-environmental-worries.pdf. 2023.
Tsui, Jenna. “Five Biggest Environmental Issues Affecting the U.S.,” Environmental Protection Online, February 24, 2020.