Published in the January edition of Sleep, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania's School of Medicine indicated that Americans are averaging 17.3 minutes more of sleep each night than they were nearly 15 years ago, which translates to an extra 7.5 extra hours of sleep per year.
To get to their findings, officials tapped the American Time Use Survey (ATSU), a questionnaire conducted by the US Census Bureau that followed the sleeping habits of 181,335 people between 2003 and 2016. Participants were aged 15 and older.
Researchers noted that an even closer analysis showed that sleep times typically grew by 1.4 minutes on weekdays and 0.8 on weekends per year during the 14 years that the survey was done.
"This shows an increased willingness in parts of the population to give up pre-bed leisure activities to obtain more sleep," Mathias Basner, the study's lead author, said in a Thursday statement. "Also, the data suggest that increasing opportunities to work, learn, bank, shop, and perform administrative tasks online and from home freed up extra time and some of it was likely used to get more sleep."
"As researchers, increasing awareness of short sleep and its consequences remains a critically important task to improve public health," Basner added. "At the same time, this data provides new hope that these efforts may be effective in motivating many Americans to sleep more."
The study indicated that the trend was mostly observed in students, employed respondents and retirees that either chose to hit the bed sooner or sleep in a little longer.
Since the ATSU examined all activities over a 24-hour period, officials were also able to ferret out the behavioral changes that led to the increase in sleep times. The two prominent activities study participants seemed to ditch were late night reading sessions and TV.
Though the findings are showing a positive change in the sleep habits of Americans, researchers warned that the findings still need to be replicated and that there is a long road ahead to combat chronic sleep loss.