Ah, New York, New York! The Big Apple; Gotham; The City So Nice They Named It Twice. Also the city of long work days and long nights out – who wants to miss out on all those amazing restaurants and bars and shows and activitie? With so much going for it, it’s no wonder that New Amsterdam’s residents don’t have time for sleep; they’re too busy living in the greatest city on Earth!. But even when New Yorkers have downtime, we can’t seem to actually get any sleep. We’re exhausted, so what gives? Here are a few reasons New Yorkers are losing shuteye.
1 – Alcohol
Drinking in New York is not a pastime – it’s a part-time job. As of 2010, 42% of New Yorkers admitted to binge drinking which, according to the survey, meant having at least two drinks a night. For New Yorkers, this is not news. In addition to being an unimaginably tough place to live (most New Yorkers I know consider a subway ride reason enough to toss back a cold one), New York is home to the martini and the Manhattan, while breweries and distilleries bearing the names of the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, Coney Island, and New York itself, just to name a few, pump out enough alcohol daily to sauce a whole army of winos.
So how does all this affect a New Yorker’s sleep? Drinking alcohol contributes to insomnia, causes breathing problems during sleep, and reduces the amount of time spent in REM sleep, often thought to be the most restorative portion of a good night’s sleep. Plus, the temptation to have a drink after work can easily turn into a night out, meaning you have less time to spend in bed in the first place!
2 – Stress
According to Motovo, New York City is the second most stressed-out city in the U.S., with the average New Yorker reporting a stress level of 5.5 out of 10 in 2010 (the average consensus on a healthy level being 3.7). From MTA price increases and train shutdowns to family and job concerns, New Yorkers have plenty to be stressed about, and are more likely than the average American to feel that they have an above-average amount of stress.
Not only does high stress increase your odds of not getting enough sleep; not getting enough sleep increases your odds of being stressed. It’s a vicious cycle, and there’s only one way out of it: getting more sleep. Unfortunately, being tired isn’t going to pay your rent or make the MTA work any more smoothly, so that stress probably isn’t going anywhere. Luckily, there’s…
3 – Coffee
America’s favorite cheap drug (leaving alcohol out of it) must be caffeine. According to TimeOutNewYork, a whopping 67% of City dwellers drink at least two cups of coffee a day, and 21% admit to five or more. The five boroughs boasted a combined 568 Dunkin Donuts and 307 Starbucks as of 2015, with continual growth since 2012, a sign that coffee is becoming increasingly hard to avoid. This might explain why one coffee company opened a caffeine-free coffee pop-up in Manhattan last year, though 89% of coffee drinkers still prefer a fully caffeinated cup of joe.
Caffeine can stay in the body for up to twelve hours. The point of consuming caffeine is to stay awake and alert, so that late-afternoon hit can take a big bite out of your night. And that’s not all – when you do finally fall asleep, caffeine can cause disruptions including insomnia, nightmares, and perhaps most terrifyingly, incontinence. These factors are increased as one drinks coffee later in the day, which for New Yorkers is practically a sage rite of adulthood. The consensus? For good sleep, if you drink it often, drink it early.
4 – WiFi
Speaking of coffee, who doesn’t love a good coffee shop? A neverending supply of caffeine and pastry, surly hip baristas, boring ambient music, and the holy grail of the digital age: WiFi. While this data-deployer makes our lives easier in millions of ways, there are many who believe it might be seeping into our sleeping lives as well, and not just in an I-stayed-up-all-night-looking-for-that-one-Spongebob-GIF kind of way.
According to Scientific American, the use of radiofrequency (RF) radiation from cell phones (the same kind used in wireless data systems) was used to observe brainwave activity during sleep, but a surprising find was that many of the test subjects, due to the RF radiation from the phones, had difficulty falling asleep at all. Though WiFi utilizes lower levers of RF than cell phones, remember that you’re surrounded by both, all the time. In a high-rise or a walkup, chances are that you’ve got your own WiFi router, plus those of your neighbors to either side and above and below. You’re swimming in potentially-sleep-disrupting signals!
5 – 24/7 Bodegas
In small towns and cities across the USA, sleep comes fast and easy, especially with the knowledge that, even if one moved heaven, hell, and purgatory, one could not procure a pastrami sandwich at four in the morning for any reason, or for any price. Luckily New Yorkers, with plenty of access to 24-hour bodegas, have just the opposite problem: with so much food readily available, and at any time of night, the only reason for many of us not to pop out bleary-eyed for a chopped cheese or a 99-cent slice is basically our unwillingness to get dressed again to go out.
However, late-night access to greasy, delicious, fatty foods doesn’t exactly lend itself to sleeping well. Eating high-calorie food before bed leads to sleep interruptions (digestion’s increased acid production could cause acid reflux when the body is horizontal), and being sleep-deprived will increase your cravings for those exact high-calorie foods. Another vicious cycle. So be honest with yourself, order that double cheeseburger with extra onions, grab a coffee and a beer, and pin your eyelids back for the longest night of your life.
Counting Sheep In The City That Never Sleeps
In short, pretty much every aspect of New York life is enough to keep you up at night. And there are some things that are tough to avoid – you can’t exactly ask all of your neighbors to turn off their WiFi routers, although you can turn off your own and make sure to keep your phone away from your bed at night. You can at least control your coffee and alcohol intake, so try to keep the caffeine early and the alcohol to a minimum. And stock some healthy snacks so you’re not quite so tempted by that bodega!
It’s not easy to make it in New York and it’s going to be even tougher when you’re a bleary-eyed zombie. The good news is that a few simple changes can make a big difference in the amount (and quality) of shuteye you’re getting! “The City That Never Sleeps” is a great slogan, but not great advice!