Better sleep habits necessarily lead to healthier bodies and minds, right?
According to recent findings from Bing, this doesn’t seem to be the case at all.
The second-biggest American search engine was able to “measure” when people across the country have been falling asleep and waking up, since previous studies have recently shown that the majority of Americans use their tablets, smartphones, and computers right before going to bed and right after waking up.
This decrease and subsequent increase in activity on Bing’s page allowed researchers to sketch out the average time that residents in certain cities go to bed and wake up, thereby calculating the average number of hours of sleep that “a city” (i.e., the average resident of a specific city) gets each night.
The data was taken from 25 cities/metro areas across the country, and the results were a bit startling: the city with the least amount of sleep (San Francisco, averaging 6:34 hours) and the cities with the most amount of sleep (Boston and Houston, both averaging 8:07 hours) have only a difference of 90 minutes.
Even more surprising, Fortune and the Houston Chronicle note, is that neither Boston nor Houston can boast of housing the healthiest Americans. Moreover, San Francisco is actually one of the healthiest cities in the country, despite its lower average night of sleep.
This finding seems to go against nearly every single piece of modern scientific evidence on the matter. As Fortune reported, the average American got 7.9 hours of sleep in 1942, but that number today is around 6.8 hours. As the amount of sleep decreased, records show that safety risks (like car accidents) and individual health concerns (like heart disease and depression) increased.
Additionally, researchers have also found that far more Americans suffer from disruptive sleep disorders than was previously thought — and more Americans suffering from these problems are realizing that they have them. Obstructive sleep apnea, for example, affects an estimated 18 million Americans today; back in the 1940s, this wasn’t a disorder that researchers were even examining — much less actively treating.
It’s possible that Americans are more aware now of their sleep habits — or their inability to sleep — and simply aren’t bothering to waste that time lying awake in bed; perhaps it’s just too early to collect data and analyze it as indicative of overall sleep patterns.
Regardless of what’s really going on, it’s clear that there’s plenty of information on sleep habits that scientists have yet to discover.