How the Rest of the World Sleeps

Public Domain. Sleeping Beauty by Henry Meynell Rheam

Although the benefits of a good night's sleep are well documented, people across the globe have a complex relationship with the elusive state of slumber.

Why is sleep so complicated? It seems like it should be so simple: you’re tired, you go to bed, you sleep. The mind and body require it; and when needed it’s a state that’s hard to resist. When we get the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep a night, we get sick less often, maintain a healthy weight and lower our risk of high blood pressure and diabetes, to name just a few of the potential benefits.

Yet, how many of us fumble and stumble through our days feeling sleep's distinct lack?

Well in fact, a recent poll of nearly 8,000 people in 10 different countries found that quite a few of us face more sleepless nights than we’d like. The survey – Sleep: A Global Perspective, conducted by Philips and the KJT Group in honor of World Sleep Day – found that 22 percent of those queried said they wake up before they want to and 57 percent said that their sleep could be better.

Gleaning information about sleep and wake times, day-to-day routines, sleeping environments and perceptions of their work-life balance, the poll sought to find what is getting in the way of developing healthier sleep habits. And although so many admitted to poor sleeping habits, most admitted to not doing much to improve their nightly Zs.

"Our report indicates how psychological factors can impact sleep, and how those factors can change depending on the times in which we live," Mark Aloia, Ph.D., the senior director of global clinical research for Philips, said in a statement. "Combating stress is critical to a good night's sleep, but the toughest part for people is often just getting motivated to make changes."

So what’s preventing people across the planet from dropping into dreamy slumber? Those answers and other nuggets below:

United States

Among Americans polled for the survey, 31 percent selected financial issues as the most prevalent sleep disruptor. The U.S. had the highest number of respondents, at 17 percent, saying they use prescription drugs and another 17 percent who say they rely on over-the-counter sleep aids.


Across Europe, 31 percent said that financial issues were the most common sleep disruptor.

United Kingdom

At 22 percent, the U.K. has the most people whose sleep is affected by a partner’s sleeping habits, like snoring.


Germany has the lowest number of people – at 9 percent of those polled – for whom TV or technology was a distraction at bedtime.


The Netherlands rang in with a curious distinction: Dutch people have the longest spread of time between their last meal and bedtime, with 82 percent saying the span is more than three hours.


All we get from the survey about the French? They had the most respondents (36 percent) who replied that they have large bedrooms. Ah, those lovers. Viva la France!


Work issues plague 33 percent of Brazilians polled; financial woes keep 39 percent of them awake. Or could it be a full stomach? Of the 10 countries surveyed, Brazil had the most respondents admitting to going to bed less than two hours after their last meal.


People in China work more than the other countries, with the average workweek clocking in at 40.1 hours. Funny, 32 percent of those polled also listed work issues as a common sleep interrupter. That said, it is also the country in which the most people take naps! Fourteen percent of those polled said they get an afternoon snooze five or more times a week.

South Korea

South Korea ranked as the most stressed country, with a whopping 61 percent of those surveyed saying that they were somewhat or very stressed. Forty-three percent said that work was the most common sleep disruptor; and of the 10 countries queried, South Korea had the most (30 percent) who sleep on the floor.


Welcome to the land of the night owls. Japan has the most people who stay up late, with 16 percent going to bed after 1 a.m. during the workweek and 25 percent staying up that late on the weekends.


Meanwhile, more Australians are seeing the sunrise than in other countries; 12 percent get up before 5 a.m. during the week, and seven percent rise before that time on the weekends.

Aloia noted that even though technology didn’t rank high as a sleep disruptor, we should still keep it in mind as a factor. According to the poll, 67 percent of people sleep with their cell phones within reach, and 21 percent did say that they believe that technology significantly disrupts their sleep.

What about you: What keeps you up at night?