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25% of people go to bed after midnight, a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll finds. Is that a problem? What sleep experts say.

An old-fashioned alarm clock with the letters ZZZ on its face.
Is going to sleep late bad for you? Here's what experts say. (Getty Creative)

According to a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll of 1,482 U.S. adults conducted between March 8 and March 11, 25% of Americans don’t go to bed until after midnight, and 17% say they head to bed “around” midnight. (On the opposite end of the slumber spectrum, 2% say they turn in before 8 p.m., and 3% go to bed around that time.)

And while younger generations are typically considered more likely to be night owls — with senior citizens perceived to be in favor of an early bedtime — the poll suggests the opposite. Just 20% of respondents in the 18 to 29 age group report going to bed after midnight, compared with 26% of 30- to 44-year-olds, 28% of 45- to 64-year-olds and 24% of those aged 65 and older. Just 3% of the 65-and-up group say they go to bed before 8 p.m., and another 3% go to bed around 8 p.m. Though trend pieces suggest that Gen Z-ers prefer going to sleep at 9 p.m., this poll found that 11 p.m. is more popular, with 24% of 18- to 29-year-olds naming that as their usual bedtime (compared with 8% for 9 p.m., 21% for midnight, 16% for 10 p.m. and 5% for before or around 8 p.m.).

Meanwhile, just 38% of those surveyed said they get between seven and eight hours of sleep a night. Another 38% sleep just five to six hours a night and 13% report getting less than five hours of rest.

So, what do experts say about this data? Here’s what to know.

😴 How much sleep should you be getting — and what happens if you don't get enough?

“Most people are not getting enough sleep,” Dr. Brienne Miner, a Yale Medicine sleep medicine doctor, tells Yahoo Life, noting the “clear recommendations” from the National Sleep Foundation, which state that "seven to nine hours is recommended for young adults and adults, and seven to eight hours of sleep is recommended for older adults.”

“Anybody getting less than seven hours of sleep, on average, is probably not getting enough sleep,” Miner says.

It’s not enough to simply get seven hours of shut-eye either. Quality of sleep is just as important as quantity, Trinna L. Cuellar, head of research and development and vice president of biology at the biotech company Tally Health, tells Yahoo Life. According to Cuellar, even seven hours is not enough sleep if it isn’t restful. “Both sleep quality and quantity can significantly impact our health and increase our risk for various chronic health issues, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease and cancer to name a few, as well as correlate with mortality.”

Dr. Aneesa Das, a sleep medicine expert at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, tells Yahoo Life that our society is, in general, “chronically sleep deprived.” Das points out that too little time asleep can lead to poor weight management due to the “reduction in the satiety hormones that make us feel full, and an increase in the hormones that are associated with hunger.” Lack of sleep is also associated with higher blood pressure and poorer control of blood glucose levels, Das adds.

🛌 Is going to bed late a problem?

Possibly — but it mostly depends on the quality of sleep you receive when you do go to bed late. Cuellar says that if going to bed late stops you from getting the proper amount of sleep, it is concerning. But she adds that “if they are getting high-quality sleep for the recommended duration, then it is not as worrisome.” She explains, “Sleep duration, quality and having a regular bedtime schedule are more important than the timing.” In other words, staying up until midnight (or even later) isn't necessarily an issue so long as you're getting at least seven hours of sleep and not waking up early or experiencing disrupted sleep.

It’s all about your circadian rhythm, the internal clock that regulates cycles of alertness and sleepiness, says Miner. If we are pushing ourselves to stay awake, such as for work or social activities, when we are tired and feel ready for bed, we may be “setting ourselves up for adverse health outcomes,” she warns.

🥱 When is it OK to go to bed late?

Not everyone’s circadian rhythm is the same, and you don’t have to shift it to fit what seems like a healthy schedule if it doesn’t work for your body. While there is a perceived idea that the earlier you go to bed and wake up, the better, that's not the best way for everyone to get restful, restorative sleep.

“I find that many people who tend toward a delayed circadian rhythm ('night owls') have received negative feedback from many people, such as their medical providers or their family,” Shea Golding, a Corewell Health clinical psychologist who specializes in sleep medicine, tells Yahoo Life. “But if someone’s body clock truly aligns with a later schedule, they actually function better if they are able to embrace a later schedule. If someone goes to bed at midnight and sleeps until 7 a.m. with efficient, good-quality sleep, then that meets the general recommendation for adults.”

Whenever you go to bed, make sure you get the best sleep possible. You can practice good sleep hygiene by sticking to the same sleep schedule (weekends included!), sleeping in a cool, dark room and “unplugging” before bed.