Falling asleep is a real struggle for more than half of U.S. adults and consumers turn to a host of different tools and tricks to help lull themselves to sleep. From spoken word or atmospheric ambiance to over-the-counter aids, CivicScience took a look at the many ways consumers try to help themselves drift off. In this first of a two-part series on sleep, we dive into the trend of watching TV to fall asleep.

A recent CivicScience survey of over 3,400 American adults showed 68% have trouble sleeping at least a few nights a month, and 19% said they struggle as frequently as every night.

While older Americans have a little more trouble sleeping than younger Americans, the rates of nightly restlessness are near equal across age groups.

Many of those who have trouble sleeping are using more modern-day remedies instead of counting sheep. The most popular activities to aid sleep before bed were watching TV (34%), reading (27%), listening to music or audiobooks (10%) followed by meditating or praying (9%). 

Falling Asleep With the TV On

When comparing major streaming services, the data show Netflix is the preferred selection for bedtime viewing. 

For the purpose of this study “watching TV” includes both live TV and streaming content, but there is clearly a correlation between falling asleep to TV and Netflix streamers.

CivicScience data shows Netflix users dominated by two age groups: the 18 to 24 group and the 35 to 54 age group, which looks a lot like Gen Z and their parents. But those who use TV to help them sleep are much more likely to be over the age of 35.

When filtering the data to show how many nights someone has trouble sleeping, HBO Now users appear to have the highest incidence of those saying they have trouble every night. Maybe Game of Thrones is just a little too intense to nod off to.

Effects of the Pandemic

More than six months after the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S., Americans aren’t really getting any less sleep than usual. CivicScience tracking shows a majority of the Gen Pop gets between six and eight hours every night. 

But, when you look at people whose jobs have been negatively affected by the pandemic, the numbers are a little less rosy. People who report not working, not getting paid, or working reduced hours are getting less sleep at night on average.

While 40% of those not working and getting paid less do report using TV to get to sleep, it’s the people still working (just remotely) who are doing so at a higher rate.

Those whose jobs have been negatively impacted are more likely to pick up a book to help with sleep.

Netflix has developed a reputation for providing passive programming to help viewers sleep, with notable favorites like Painting with Bob Ross, Planet Earth, and other options for “slow TV.” And though there’s no shortage of options for sleep aid products out there — white noise machines, special bedding, over-the-counter medicine — the sleep-deprived adults of the pandemic are sticking with what’s familiar.