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The quality of our sleep is determined by many different factors that can be personal, external, environmental and so forth. We can influence individual factors like our health and mood, but when it comes to environmental factors like air and noise pollution, you can’t do much. Pollution may not be such a big deal to someone without allergies, but if you are prone to allergies, you will definitely sleep better in a cleaner city. Ever wondered what are the best and worst cities in the US for sleep? Keep reading to find out! To create this list, we spent 120 hours of research and consulted three sleep experts.
How to Find You Best Cities for Sleep?
In order to determine the best and worst cities for sleep in the US, we researched how cities rank on different factors related to sleep, such as sleep deprivation, obesity rates, commute time, air quality, light pollution, noise pollution, and similar. Here is why we consider each factor important for determining whether or not a particular city is good for sleep.
Sleep deprivation: As you undoubtedly know, the average adult requires seven to eight hours of sleep in order to function optimally. Unfortunately, most citizens of the US don’t achieve that and sleep around 6 hours per night. Most Americans don’t have enough time to catch their precious ZZZs due to poor health, increased family and work obligations, and emotional factors such as depression and anxiety. Sleep deprivation has severe effects on our health, ranging from irritability, poor memory, and weight gain, to increased chances of getting diabetes and heart disease.
It is critical to keep in mind that according to CDC, more than a third of Americans don’t get sufficient sleep every night. The state of Hawaii reported the lowest levels of adequate sleep at 56%, while South Dakota got the most rest at 72%. Residents from Appalachia get the lowest amounts of sleep, which may also be influenced by higher obesity rates and poor health in the regions.
Obesity rates: Researchers had a long time ago established a connection between obesity and increased chances of getting heart disease, diabetes, and sleep disorders such as sleep apnea. Being in good physical condition and health is vital to sleeping better at night. In order to improve your sleep, you should exercise more, and try to health healthy. It is especially important to avoid overly fatty or sugary foods as much as you can. According to studies conducted by the CDC, more than a third of Americans are obese.
Unemployment rate: Emotional health is equally essential for sleep as physical health. Depression and anxiety are linked with insomnia and other sleep disorders. Workaholics typically suffer from sleep disorders. On the flip side, having job security helps to reduce stress (that contributes to insomnia) which may improve sleep.
Commute time: An average citizen of the US spends 26.3 minutes each way commuting to work. How this impacts sleep? Employees with short commute times are typically more productive and satisfied with their job than workers with long commute times. Commuting time is also one of the most important factors people consider when choosing a place to live in. Lower commute times are also linked with better health, especially lower risks of diabetes and depression.
Air quality: Poor air quality is linked to higher rates of heart disease, asthma, allergies, and lung cancer. When it comes to sleep disorders, poor air quality is linked with obstructive sleep apnea, which can also contribute to heart failure. It is also worth mentioning that air pollution makes it harder for people to exercise outside, which can reduce the physical fitness levels in the city and lead to other health problems that interfere with sleep.
Light pollution: light pollution doesn’t seem like a very important factor for quality sleep; however, it can interfere with your circadian rhythms, and confuse your brain about when is the right time to release sleep-inducing hormones such as melatonin. This is one of the reasons why using electronic at night can mess up with your sleep. The blue light emitted by your phone, computer and TV can easily trick your brain into thinking it’s still daytime, making you feel alert and stay awake hours after your usual bedtime.
A devastating fact published in the Science Advances in 2016, reveals that 99% of Americans live under light-polluted skies. The sky is so polluted that only 20% of all people in the US can see our nearest galaxy, the Milky Way. Cities in the eastern half of the country are most affected, especially the northeastern seaboard area from Washington D.C. to Boston. The West Coast is less air polluted, except metropolitan areas such as San Francisco and LA.
Some cities in the US decided to address this problem by creating so-called Dark Sky Communities. The International Dark-Sky Association manages these cities, and the focus is to use more quality outdoor lighting and educate residents about the effects of light pollution that not only cause poor sleep but also lead to species extinction. American Dark Sky cities are currently located in Indiana, Arizona, California, Texas, Illinois, and Colorado.
Ongoing construction: Many US cities are in a period of constant growth. While this is excellent news for the economy, it’s not such great news for sleep. The noise from heavy and ongoing construction can easily interfere with our sleep. Also, construction creates traffic congestion during the daytime, which may lead to longer commutes and significantly higher stress levels. We already discussed why commute time is essential for sleep, and we also mentioned that stress and anxiety could easily lead to the development of insomnia.
Best Cities for Sleep – Our Top Picks
Since we had to limit our list to top 5, our honorable mentions are Austin, Portland, and Overland Park.
The city of Austin has excellent air quality, and it also very low sleep deprivation rates. Two dark cities are within this metropolitan area – Dripping Springs and Horseshoe Bay. However, Austin is not in our top five because it has high obesity rates and commute times.
Portland is considered one of the best cities for sleep. However, due to its ongoing construction boom, increase commute times, and high unemployment rates, it didn’t manage to get in our top 5. However, since it has one of the lowest deprivation rates in the US, as well as low obesity rates, it is an honorable mention.
Overland Park, KS
Overland Park has the lowest sleep deprivation rate in the US. It’s also worth mentioning that their obesity rates and unemployment rates have significantly decreased over the course of the last few years.
Madison is a city with the lowest unemployment rates in the US and only 21 minutes of average commute time. According to statistical research, only 30% of residents don’t get enough sleep.
The capital of Nebraska is in our top 5 best cities for sleep because it is considered very clean, has very short commute time (only 19 minutes per person), and pretty low unemployment rates. Unemployment rates are only 2.8%! When it comes to obesity rates, they slight went up this year. Similar to Madison, WI, around 30% of residents don’t get less than recommended 7 hours of sleep per night.
Boise is considered the third best city in the US for sleep. It’s unemployment rates are only 2.9, and obesity rates are also low – 27.4%. Each year, their obesity and unemployment rates slightly improve.
Sioux Falls, SD
Sioux Falls won second place on our best cities for sleep top list. The unemployment and obesity rates in the state are average and continue to drop each year. The city is considered one of the cleanest in the US, and it also has a very low commute time – only 18.5 minutes per citizen. When it comes to sleep deprivation rates, a bit more than 27% of residents aren’t getting more than recommended 7 hours a sleep per night.
Colorado Springs, CO
Our winner for the best city for sleep is Colorado Springs, CO. This city won the first place because it has low sleep deprivation and obesity rates, as well as unemployment rates significantly below the national average. Colorado Springs is considered one of cleanest cities in America, and another plus is that it’s located near the Dark City of Westcliffe and Silver Cliff.
Worst Cities for Sleep
One of the worst cities for sleep are New York, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Birmingham, Cleveland, Newark, and Detroit. Let’s see why.
New York, NY
The Big Apple is considered one of the worst cities for sleep because it’s continuously undergoing construction, it’s considered one of the most polluted cities in America, and also has one of the worst average commute time – almost 36 minutes per resident. A full quarter of New Yorkers are considered obese. When it comes to unemployment rates, they are a bit above average. So, we can say with confidence that New York indeed is “the city that never sleeps. “
Baltimore is not in our top worst cities for sleep, but it’s very close. The city is considered one of the most polluted in America; the obesity rates grow each year; the average commute time is a full 30 minutes… Do you need to hear more? It’s no wonder over 44% of its residents are sleep deprived.
Philadelphia won fifth place due to its high unemployment rates (almost 5%), severe air pollution, and high obesity rates (30%). More than 44% of its residents are sleep deprived. When you combine this with ongoing construction and long commute times, you can quickly realize why this city made it to our list.
Birmingham can be found both on the Most Polluted and the Cleanest Cities lists. When it comes to making the cleanest cities list, it won that spot for short-term particle pollution. However, it’s considered one of the most polluted towns in the US when it comes to year-round particle pollution. Unemployment rates are slightly above average, and it has one of the highest rates of obesity in the nation – almost 36%. It is also considered one of the worst cities for sleep because around 47% of its residents suffer from sleep deprivation.
Comparing to last year’s research, Cleveland’s obesity rate worsened by almost 2%, and their commute times also increased. Although the unemployment rates are good, it still slightly above the national average. The city is also considered very polluted, and 45% of its residents don’t get the recommended 7 hours of sleep per night.
Newark won our second place on the list of worst cities for sleep. Although it’s an hour away from the Big Apple, it’s air quality is very low. The light pollution is also severe. When it comes to commuting times, the average citizen travels more than 35 minutes to work each way. NJ’s unemployment rate is just above average, but their obesity and sleep deprivation rates are very high – 48% meaning almost half of the residents are obese and get less than seven hours of sleep per night.
Our winner for the worst city for sleep in the US is Detroit, MI. Over 50% of adults in this town are sleep deprived. As this isn’t enough, the city constantly experiences high levels of construction, which worsens traffic congestion, increase noise pollution, commute times, and kind of ruins everyone’s mood. Apart from being the city with significantly decreased air quality, Detroit is also one of the cities with the highest obesity rates. Nearly one-third of the citizens are considered obese.
Is your city on the list? How would you rank your hometown by using these criteria? Let us know in the comments below!
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Co-founder of Counting Sheep and Sleepaholic