Think those wild college years are when people get the least amount of sleep each night? Think again. A new study finds Americans actually see less shut eye at age 40 than they do at any other point in their lives.
Luckily, a team from the Medical College of Georgia says things do get better as people age, with Americans sleeping more after the age of 60. The study discovered a U-shaped curve in the nation’s sleep patterns, with younger children sleeping the most, before sleep starts to drop off between ages 10 and 50. Eventually, the pattern bottoms out around age 40, where Americans sleep for the fewest number of hours each night.
Despite sleeping less, researchers did find that sleep efficiency actually stabilizes between ages 30 and 60. The team examined sleep data on more than 11,000 people over the age of six participating in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, or NHANES. Researchers collected the data between 2011 and 2014. The survey also marks the first time 24-hour accelerometer data has been available for a nationally representative sample of Americans.
Each person wore these tracking devices on their wrists for seven straight days. Although they don’t directly measure sleep time, the devices do keep track of movement, which provides researchers with an idea if someone is asleep or not.
“We confirmed previous findings based on subjective measurement,” says Dr. Shaoyong Su in a university release. “People think children and adolescents sleep later and we found this. And, during middle age people sleep less and our findings support that objectively.”