A variety of factors impact how well we sleep, from our personal health and happiness to environmental factors like air and noise pollution. Each person is different. For example, a person with allergies will sleep better in a cleaner city, but pollution might not be such a big deal to a person without allergies.
Last year, we ranked the top 150 cities in the U.S. to find the best and worst cities for sleep. This year, we’re doing it again. Did your city make the list this year? You’ll have to keep reading to find out.
In our professional opinion, here are the best and worst cities for sleep in the United States:
BEST CITIES FOR SLEEP
WORST CITIES FOR SLEEP
Colorado Springs, CO
Sioux Falls, SD
Keep reading to learn more about our methodology, how we chose our top 5 cities, and view a full list of the rankings for the top 150 cities in America.
About our methodology
To determine the best and worst cities for sleep in the United States, we looked at how cities rank on different factors related to sleep, including:
Below we explain the impact each factor has on sleep and how we sourced our data.
The average adult requires 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night. Unfortunately, much of America doesn’t achieve that, due to poor health, increased work and family obligations, and emotional factors like anxiety and depression. Worse, sleep deprivation has real negative effects on your health, ranging from reduced cognitive processing and poorer memory to irritability and weight gain.
Using 2014 survey data, the CDC found that more than a third of Americans don’t get sufficient sleep on a regular basis (35.2 percent). Perhaps surprisingly, as a state Hawaii reported the lowest levels of adequate sleep at 56 percent, while South Dakota got the most sleep at 72 percent. Individuals living in the southeastern part of the U.S. and Appalachia reported the lowest amounts of sleep, which may be associated with the higher rates of obesity and poor health in those regions.
The map below reveals the percentage of adults reporting less than 7 hours of sleep by county.
For our rankings, we used the 2014 numbers from the CDC for the age-adjusted prevalence of adults sleeping less than 7 hours by city.
More than one-third of American adults have obesity, according to the CDC. Their Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System reviews state data on the average adult’s diet, physical activity, and obesity status. In the map below, the darker colors signify higher rates of obesity.
For our rankings, we looked at the 2016 percentages of adults who have obesity by state.
Just like physical health, being emotionally healthy can significantly impact your ability to sleep well. Depression is linked with insomnia and disturbed sleep. Workaholics tend to suffer from sleep disorders. Alternately, having job security and ties to your community can reduce the stress that contributes to insomnia.
The average American spends 26.3 minutes each way commuting to work.
How does your commute time impact your sleep? Workers with shorter commute times tend to be more productive and report more job satisfaction. Happier people tend to have an easier job falling asleep at night. People recognize the impact commuting takes on their happiness, which is why they often list it as one of the most important factors in choosing a place to live.
Lower commute times are also associated with lowered health risks of diabetes and depression (the first of which can lead to sleep apnea, and both of which often coexist with insomnia).
For our dataset, we relied on U.S. Census data, which tracked commute times for workers between 2012 and 2016. They listed the average commute times for nearly 1,000 of the country’s largest cities. As one might expect, larger cities have longer commute times.
Poor air quality is associated with higher rates of asthma, heart disease, and lung cancer. Asthma is associated with increased risk for obstructive sleep apnea, which in turn can contribute to heart failure.
Further, air pollution makes it tougher to exercise outside, which can reduce physical fitness levels and lead to other health problems that interfere with sleep.
For assessing air quality, we looked to the American Lung Association. Each year, their State of the Air Report lists the 25 cleanest and the 25 most polluted cities, based on their levels of ozone, short-term particle, and year-round particle pollution.
The latest artificial night sky atlas, published in the journal Science Advances in 2016, reveals that over 99 percent of Americans live under light-polluted skies. In fact, our night skies are so polluted, that only 20 percent of us can see the Milky Way, our nearest galaxy.
Cities in the eastern half of the country are worse off, especially in the northeastern seaboard from Washington D.C. to Boston. The West Coast offers darker nighttime skies, with the exception of the major metropolitan areas surrounding San Francisco and Los Angeles.
The problems associated with light pollution, which range from species extinction to poor sleep, has led more cities to designate themselves as Dark Sky Communities. Managed by the International Dark-Sky Association, these communities use quality outdoor lighting solutions and educate residents about dark sky stewardship so individuals can be thoughtful about the types of lighting they use and place in their homes.
American Dark Sky cities include:
Beverly Shores, IN
Big Park / Village of Oak Creek, AZ
Borrego Springs, CA
Dripping Springs, TX
Homer Glen, IL
Horseshoe Bay, TX
Thunder Mountain Pootsee Nightsky, AZ
Westcliffe and Silver Cliff, CO
While the majority of cities on our list are too urban to not be affected by light pollution, we designated in our rankings below whether or not a city is located by a dark sky city.
Many American cities are in a period of growth right now. While this bodes well for the economy, it’s not so great for sleep. The noise from construction interferes with one’s ability to get restful sleep.
During the daytime, construction creates congestion that may lead to longer commutes and higher stress levels. Stress and anxiety are two major risk factors for insomnia, a sleep disorder that makes it difficult to fall asleep at night and/or stay asleep.
Best cities for sleep
Honorable Mentions: Austin, Portland, and Overland Park
The city of Austin holds a designation as one of the Cleanest Cities in America, and has one of the lowest sleep deprivation rates in the country. Plus, not one, but two Dark Cities are within its greater metropolitan area – Dripping Springs and Horseshoe Bay. However, Austin did not squeeze it into our top 5 cities this year because its state obesity rate increased slightly year over year, and so did its commute times.
Portland previously held spot #4 on our list, so what happened? Unfortunately, Portland is currently a construction boom town, and its unemployment rates and commute times both went up. However, it still deserves an honorable mention for enjoying one of the lowest sleep deprivation rates in the country, and below-average obesity rate and commute times.
Overland Park, KS
Overland Park actually has the lowest sleep deprivation rate in the nation. Last year, high obesity and unemployment rates prevented us from including it on our list. However, we’re happy to report that both the obesity and unemployment rates in Kansas have significantly dropped year over year. Perhaps next year, we’ll see Overland Park in our top 5!
5. Madison, WI
Madtown is a newcomer to our 2018 list. The Badger State has one of the nation’s lowest unemployment rates, and at just over 21 minutes, the average commuter doesn’t have much to complain about. Barely 30% of the city’s residents don’t get enough sleep.
4. Lincoln, NE
Lincoln moved up a spot this year. The capital city of Nebraska is one of the Cleanest Cities in America, and one of the shortest commutes in the nation, at under 19 minutes. Its employment rate dropped even lower this year to 2.8%, even though obesity slightly went up. About 30 percent of its residents report getting fewer than the recommended 7 hours of sleep.
3. Boise, ID
This year, Boise is defending is spot as the third best city for sleep. It ranks in the bottom percentile of cities who don’t get enough sleep. The state also boasts a below average unemployment and obesity rates, at 2.9 and 27.4 percent respectively (both of which improved year over year).
2. Sioux Falls, SD
Sioux Falls is staying strong in the #2 spot for another year. While the state ranks about average for obesity and unemployment, both dropped year over year. Sioux Falls is one of the Cleanest Cities in America, it has one of the lowest commute times at 18.5 minutes, and only 27.4 of Sioux Falls residents get less than enough sleep on a regular basis.
1. Colorado Springs, CO
For the second year in a row, we’re naming Colorado Springs as the best city for sleep in America. The city still boasts a low sleep deprivation state, and both its obesity and unemployment rates are well below the national average. It’s also one of the Cleanest Cities in America, and is located closeby the Dark City of Westcliffe and Silver Cliff.
Worst cities for sleep
Dishonorable Mentions: New York and Baltimore
New York, NY
It’s fitting that New York is known as “the city that never sleeps.” It is constantly undergoing construction, is listed as one of the Most Polluted Cities in America, and claims one of the worst average commute time of any city-dweller, at 35.9 minutes. A full quarter of New Yorkers qualify as obese, and its state unemployment rate is slightly above average.
Baltimore may not be one of the top 5 worst cities for sleep, but it’s up there. It just earned a ranking as one of the Most Polluted Cities in America, state obesity rates grew year over year, and the average commute time is a full half-hour. It’s no wonder over 44% of its residents don’t get a good night’s sleep on a regular basis.
5. Philadelphia, PA
Philadelphia’s still #5 on our list. Its unemployment rate improved slightly since 2017, but it’s still inching dangerously close to 5 percent. Plus, it’s one of the Most Polluted Cities in America, a full 30 percent of Philadelphians are obese, and 44.3 percent don’t get enough sleep on a regular basis. Did we mention the ongoing construction and long commute times?
4. Birmingham, AL
Birmingham holds the rare distinction of making both the Most Polluted and the Cleanest Cities lists. While it’s one of the cleanest cities when it comes to short-term particle pollution, it’s one of the worst when it comes to year-round particle pollution. Its unemployment rate is slightly above average, and it claims one of the highest rates of obesity in the nation at 35.7 percent (up slightly from last year). Unsurprisingly, it’s also one of the worst cities for sleep, with nearly 47 percent of Birmingham’s consistently getting less than 7 hours of sleep.
3. Cleveland, OH
Cleveland fared worse than Birmingham this year, which is why the two swapped spots from our 2017 list. Cleveland’s obesity rate worsened by nearly 2 percentage points, and their commute times lengthened. Although their unemployment rate improved slightly, it’s still above the national average. Cleveland still ranks as one of America’s Most Polluted Cities, and over 45 percent of Clevelanders don’t get 7 hours of sleep on a regular basis.
2. Newark, NJ
Newark kept its #2 spot this year. About an hour away from New York, Newark boasts similarly air- and light- polluted skies. It also has one of the country’s longest commute times, at an agonizing 35.9 minutes each way. New Jersey’s unemployment rate is just above average, but more than a quarter of Newarkers are obese and nearly half of them (48 percent) consistently get fewer than 7 hours of sleep.
1. Detroit, MI
When it comes to poor sleep, Detroit unfortunately is the winner for the second year in a row. Over half of adults in Detroit report getting fewer than 7 hours per sleep on a regular basis. Besides that, it’s experiencing high levels of construction, which worsens congestion, traffic times, noise pollution, and everyone’s mood. Detroit is also one of the Most Polluted Cities in America, as well as one of the most obese, with nearly one-third of residents qualifying as obese.
How does your city rank for sleep?
Below is a list of all 150 cities included in our study. See how yours stacks up!