Population-Based Estimates of Sleep Characteristics and Disruptors in the United States and South Korea

Oct 20, 2023
World Sleep 2023


Sleep is critical to health and well-being, affecting all aspects of daily life. Numerous factors can disrupt sleep, including job-related or financial concerns, neighborhood factors such as light or noise pollution, health or medical conditions, current political or social concerns and events, and family or personal relationships—to name a few. As such, it is not surprising that a growing body of research indicates that large portions of adults are not sleeping the recommended 7-9 hours of nightly sleep or report low quality sleep. Whether sleep characteristics and challenges to obtaining needed sleep are consistent across distinct cultures remains an underexplored question. We sought to provide current, population-level estimates of sleep characteristics and barriers to obtaining adequate sleep in both the United States and South Korea.

We conducted two nationally-representative, probability-based surveys, one in the United States and one in South Korea, to assess current sleep characteristics as well as common challenges to individuals getting the sleep they need. The surveys were fielded January and February 2023, respectively, for the US and South Korea. Final sample sizes were 1009 (US) and 1000 (South Korea), both with an estimated margin of error of ~3%. RIM weights were applied to both datasets to ensure accurate representation of national demographics. Survey respondents reported general sleep quality ratings, perceived sleep need, habitual sleep duration, and largest challenge to getting adequate sleep. Measures of central tendency and dispersion were used to characterize responses.

American adults averaged 6 hours and 56 minutes of sleep on weekdays and 7 hours and 25 minutes on weekends. In comparison, Korean adults slept for an average of 6 hours and 13 minutes on weekdays and 7 hours and 11 minutes on weekends. Despite the differences in actual sleep duration, reported sleep need was similar, 7 hours and 31 minutes and 7 hours and 12minutes for American and Korean adults, respectively. Interestingly, there was a striking difference in subjective sleep quality between the two countries. Only 6% of Americans reported their sleep as ‘poor;’ however, in South Korea 1 in 4 adults (25%) reported their sleep as ‘poor.’ Conversely, 26% of Americans reported their sleep as ‘very good’ compared to only 10% of Koreans. In terms of sleep challenges, the most common barrier to getting needed sleep identified by Americans was ‘family or personal relationships.’ However, the most common challenge to getting needed sleep in South Korea was reported as ‘job-related or financial concerns.’

Despite both the United States and South Korea being industrialized nations, striking differences were observed regarding sleep duration and quality—with adults in South Korea getting significantly less, and poorer quality, sleep than adults in the US. Adults in South Korea accumulate large sleep deficits, which may partially contribute to the country experiencing the highest suicide rate amongst all OECD countries. Cultural differences were also abundant regarding commonly experienced sleep challenges. Findings highlight the global importance of raising sleep awareness and advocating for international cooperation in promoting sleep health.


J.M Dzierzewski
D. Jung
D. Lee
S. Jeon
J. Hong
S. Lee
H. Yang
J. Lopos


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