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Sleepless in America

With work and family schedules squeezing sleep time, America is becoming a nation of both night owls and early birds. More than one-third (34 percent) of U.S. adults go to bed after midnight during the week, while nearly the same number (29 percent) are out of bed by 6 a.m., according to a new study of sleep habits from ACNielsen, the world's leading provider of consumer and marketplace information.

Looking at the time people go to bed, ACNielsen's multinational study found that the U.S. certainly isn't the only night-owl nation. In fact, when comparing the percentage of adults who go to bed after midnight, the U.S. ranked 11th out of the 28 markets studied across three major geographic regions.

An average of 37 percent of adults the world over aren't usually tucked into bed until after midnight. By region, 40 percent of adults in Asia Pacific burn the midnight oil compared with 32 percent of Europeans.

Of the top five globally ranked night-owl markets, three are Asian; the other two are Mediterranean countries.

“The Internet, laptop computers, PDAs, cell phones, and ever-rising expectations about what one can get done in a day have created a 24/7 global culture,” said ACNielsen chief marketing officer Tom Markert. “The implications for the consumer packaged goods industry are far-reaching. There are certainly additional opportunities for manufacturers of eat-on-the-go foods and products positioned as late-night snacks. However, with recent research linking the lack of sleep with a host of health problems, there also may be opportunities for companies to 'sell' consumers on the idea of slowing down.”

Not surprisingly, bedtimes differ quite a bit by age. In the United States, young people tend to stay up the latest, with 55 percent of those aged 18-20 staying up past midnight; the earliest-to-bed are older people, with 25 percent of those 60 and older in bed by 10 p.m.

Judging from the markets for over-the-counter sleep-related remedies, it appears that more people would like to get more sleep, with sleeping aids outselling anti-sleep products in the United States by more than two to one.

The National Institutes of Health estimates that some 70 million Americans suffer from some form of sleep disorder. Yet only 6 percent of U.S. households buy over-the-counter sleeping aids, according to ACNielsen Homescan consumer panel data.

“Clearly, there is some upside potential for sleeping aid manufacturers and the retailers that sell such products,” said ACNielsen's Markert. “People understand a lot about the downside to sleepiness -- that it makes it more difficult to concentrate and makes driving more dangerous. However, with links now being discovered between sleep deprivation and both diabetes and obesity, more and more people who find it hard to get adequate sleep will likely turn to over-the-counter or prescription remedies.”

The ACNielsen Survey was conducted in October 2004 over the Internet in 28 markets across Asia Pacific, Europe and the U.S., with more than 14,000 adults participating. In Vietnam, the survey was conducted face-to-face.

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