Across the country, millions of Americans strapped in for election night with no idea for what would happen when the night was over. This election was one of the most polarizing ones in our lifetime, so it was bound to be interesting to watch unfold. As expected, election night took a toll on many Americans as they were more stressed than usual watching votes come in and candidates race to that magical number of 270.
One unique aspect of this election was the impact it had on the sleep of many Americans. This year has already ruined the sleeping habits of most people, so election night was bound to show added change to sleeping habits. As we will see, it seemed the entire country had trouble sleeping on election night with so many factors helping to contribute to the poor sleep. Once we look at election night and how it affected sleep, we will also look at ways you can get better sleep in general when times are stressful.
Breaking Down Election Night
To understand why election night was a cause for sleep issues across the nation and even around the world, we need to understand what happened on election night that caused so many people to have trouble sleeping. Interestingly enough, there are a number of factors that all seem to have played a role in creating one of the most sleepless nights in this nation’s history.
A Sleepless Nation
Across the nation and for American citizens around the world, people were glued to their screens in hopes of understanding the results of the election. Voters saying things like “I was up most of the night. I think I went to bed about 04.00 a.m.” were common from citizens like Jene Walker and many others. Americans around the globe stayed up for hours trying to finally learn who won the election.
A wearable device tracker company (Oura) reported that the entire country lost 138,833,045 hours of sleep on election night alone! This staggering number is higher than any other night on record and helps highlight just how many people were monitoring the election. The nation as a whole was losing their sleep and the data shows that it seems like most Americans were all staying up together to monitor the election.
Data from Oura suggests that heart rates were about 1.4 beats per minute higher than would be expected any other day. This may seem like a very small number, but those extra beats add up and show that the election was causing a physical response in the body. For many people, this increased heart rate was caused by a state of not knowing what would happen after the election results were posted. Heart rates tend to rise in people who are in stressful conditions or are uncertain of upcoming outcomes.
Increases in Stress and Anxiety
A Widespread Loss of Sleep
The body has a natural pattern it likes to follow with things like breathing, bumping blood, and even blinking. While these rhythms are essential for your survival, your body’s natural circadian rhythm is just as important to keep healthy. This rhythm is your bodies internal clock that makes you feel tired when you need to sleep and wakes you up when it is recovered.
When you stay up later than usual, this rhythm is interrupted and has an impact on your sleep and how effective it is. According to Sleep Cycle, an app that tracks sleeping patterns, Americans lost around 30 minutes of sleep on election night. With this finding, it seems like a universal break in the nation’s rhythm occurred. While this seems like a minor issue, a lack of sleep as widespread as this can have serious impacts on the nation and its economy as a whole.
Not only is a lack of sleep bad for individual health, but poor sleep affects the economy as a whole. A study by RAND Europe has shown that the United States loses about $411 billion every year in productivity from workers who sleep fewer than six hours a night. An employee who has less sleep is going to be less effective and aware enough to complete their job at the highest level. When you start to see this trend on a larger scale, you can see that trends showing less sleep across the globe means big trouble for national economies.
The Aftermath of Election Night
Once the election night itself was over, people began to head to sleep as usual. However, the many sleep trends we looked at earlier came into effects and impacted the sleep of millions. Because of this, many people were reporting poorer sleep than usual.
Post-Election Sleep Trends
On election night, there was a statistical anomaly that showed arguably one of the worst nights of sleep in the nation for any election night. Across the nation, 32% of Americans report they typically feel more tired than usual the day after election night. This large number is only surpassed on nights like New Years and for many returns to average daily lives.
With the election being more broadcasted and covered than any that have come before it, it isn’t too surprising that so many people were able to watch and monitor it. Unfortunate, the abundance of election information made it easier to put off sleep and get invested in the numbers.
Tips for Easy Sleeping After the Election
Once election night is officially over, people still have a wide array of built up stress and continue to have trouble sleeping. Many people find it hard to fall asleep on a normal night, so that poor sleep is only being amplified during election season.
We want to help you sleep better, so we have three tips that we hope help concerned citizens sleep easy after the election.
It may seem cliché, but the best way to sleep after something like election night is to simply relax. Your mind is likely racing in many directions and is having a hard time realizing that it is time for sleep. Relaxing starts with taking a deep breath and trying to get your heart rate to slow down. This tells your body that everything is normal so it can relax.
Once your body is relaxed, you need to relax your mind. This can look like thinking positive thoughts or even just writing out your feelings to help your mind become clear enough to start sleeping.
Turn off Electronics
Whether it is election night or just another average Tuesday, turning off electronics well before going to sleep is a great way to transition your mind into a sleep oriented state. Screens themselves are going to stimulate your brain on their own, so when that is paired with information about the election it is a recipe for disaster.
Stepping away from the screens and not looking at election numbers will help remove you from a primary cause of stress. It may be hard to step away from the election at first, but your mind will be able to focus on sleep once you remove distracting electronics.
Prepare for Sleep Early
The last thing to do is to prepare for your sleep well before you get into bed. This involves following the same ritual you would any other night that gets you ready for a great sleep. If you don’t have a ritual like this, not is a great time to male one.
Doing things like dimming the lights, setting up clothes for the next morning, and anything else you can do to remove friction is going to make your sleep more impactful. Going to bed knowing you did everything you could to make tomorrow a great day is what will get you to sleep in no time.
Chris was a psychiatrist and neurologist with board certification in sleep medicine Clinical Associate Professor at the University of California. For over 10 years, he served and helped patients at Stanford Health Care-Stanford Hospital with their sleeping disorders.
After suffered from sleep disorders for years, Chris has been passionate about sleep health ever since. He wants to help others sleep better and wanted to make the world of sleep easy to understand for everyday people.