U.S. Sleep Habits Shift During Coronavirus

By: Lisa Moshfegh, Product Marketing and Aman Bansal, Analyst

As COVID-19 began to spread in the U.S., schools shifted to distance learning, non-essential businesses closed and many employees worked from home. This begs the question: without commutes, breakfast meetings, or morning spin classes, are Americans still waking up as early as they used to? 

Weekday mornings in particular were hectic before coronavirus hit. Getting ready for work, preparing children for school, working out, throwing food in the slow cooker all made for a busy morning before the work day even began. And let’s not forget the time spent commuting. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2018 the average commute time one way was 27 minutes. Many metro areas required more than 30 minutes on average to travel from home to the office. Given the elimination of many morning routines, we suspected Americans may be sleeping later now compared to before the coronavirus disrupted life. In this analysis, we study the change in usage for alarm clock mobile applications to determine if Americans’ sleep habits are indeed shifting. 

Flurry Analytics, part of Verizon Media, is used in 1 million mobile applications worldwide, giving us unique insights into user behavior. In this report, we analyze weekday sessions by hour across several iOS and Android alarm clock mobile applications for the months of January, April and July 2020. Let’s review how morning sleep schedules have shifted. 

The chart above shows the distribution of alarm clock usage in the U.S. between 5 AM and 10 AM, when most alarm clock sessions occur. January 2020 is represented in blue, April in orange, and July in gray. January was a typical month in the U.S. with school in session and unemployment rates at 3.6%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The percentage of alarm app usage peaked at 6 AM and dropped consistently each hour after as Americans rushed off to work and school.

April 2020 was the first full month of shelter-in-place, with unemployment rates jumping to 14.7% according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The peak in wake up times shifted by one hour to 7 AM in April. The curve is flatter than January’s curve, meaning the distribution of waking up is much more spread out in April. Therefore, in April, the combination of shelter-in-place with school and business closures caused Americans to sleep later. And in July, while the peak wake-up time returns to 6 AM, the curve remains flatter than January’s curve indicating Americans’ alarm clock usage trends are somewhere between that of January and April. This makes sense because more people are back to work, but we are far from a return to normal. 

In April and July, Americans show a preference for sleeping later. While the percentage of people setting alarms at 7 AM remains unchanged compared to January, the percentage of people setting alarms before 7 AM has decreased and the percentage of people setting alarms after 7 AM has increased compared to January. The volume of users using an alarm app has also decreased. In July, the number of users dropped 14% YoY and 25% since January. 

With the increased time spent at home and elimination of many leisure activities, it should come as no surprise that Americans are waking up later. Many large employers have announced extensions to the work from home period and some school districts are planning to continue distance learning this Fall, meaning this shift in sleep habits could continue. As COVID-19 continues to disrupt our daily lives, we will continue to monitor interesting trends that demonstrate shifts in user behavior. Follow us here, or on Twitter or LinkedIn for the latest reports.