Sleep Facts
Chimps, rhesus monkeys, squirrel monkeys and baboons, all sleep for 10 hours


Do pets make good bed fellows?

Sign up to do the Big Sleep Survey 2010. Login if you're already signed up

An amazing number of people volunteered to be citizen scientists and take part in the Big Sleep Survey 2010. More than 12,000 people told us about their personal sleep habits in the questionnaire, while over 3,500 people completed the week-long sleep diaries recording the time they went to bed, fell asleep and woke up.

The Big Sleep Survey 2010 will remain open until the end of September.  The data will then be given to scientists at the Woolcock Institutein Sydney to be analysed scientifically for significant results. This process is expected to take many months, and should result in a peer-reviewed paper in a scientific journal.

In the meantime, the Big Sleep Survey team has done its own ‘non-scientific’ analysis of the data so we can get an idea of what the results may be – it’s a bit like peaking into the box before Christmas. 

Please note that these results have not been scientifically verified – find out more about how science works .


Roughly twice as many women than men signed up, with most being from Australia.
A large number of participants were aged under 29, with 11-18 years being the best represented age range. This is excellent news for the researchers who are interested in adolescent sleep habits. Participants aged 11-18 were asked a series of additional questions, to find out more about the changes in sleep habits that occur when kids become teenagers.


According to the Big Sleep Survey, a huge amount of us are walking around feeling tired.  More than 50% of participants say they felt tired a few days each week. 

When we take gender into consideration, the figures change somewhat, with women  more likely to feel tired than men-  58% compared to  47%.  Not surprisingly, women are more likely to say they are not getting enough sleep.

The average night sleep of people doing the questionnaire was 7 hours, but the range was broad. Researchers will probably get a more accurate answer from analysing the Sleep Diary results.


A whopping 70% of us rarely take a nap.  Solid evidence, just in case you needed it, that the European culture of the siesta does not exist in Australia.  Of those who do manage to sneak in a nap during the day, most slept for between 25-60 minutes. Only 4% of people napped regularly.

While we might not be a country of nappers, we do like to make up for it at the end of the week: 43% of participants said they would always sleep in on the weekend.

And when Monday rolls around, almost half of us need to set an alarm in order to get out of bed in time to make it to work.


Half of those who took part in the Big Sleep Survey 2010 share a bed, with 48% stating they have a bed partner, 42% saying they didn’t, and an intriguing 10% admitting they had one occasionally.

Almost 25% of participants with pets had them in their bed at least a few nights a month.  Yet only 9% of those with children had a child in their bed that often.  Do pets make better bed fellows? Are children easier to train? Or maybe they take up too much space?


So what do we usually do when we go to bed? It seems the book still rules bedtime with 40% cuddling up with a good story, around 17% of us like to watch TV or a DVD, and 17% like to spend time with their partner.


Almost a third of participants in the Big Sleep Survey kept a mobile phone in their bedroom at night, with TVs, laptops, iPods and radios found in roughly 15% of bedrooms. 

Is this modern technology in our bedrooms affecting our sleep? That question is too complex to answer in this simple analysis; we’ll have to wait for the sleep scientists to do their work before we have a definitive answer.

But we can say that while almost 40% slept with an electronic device that could wake them, it seems the majority of people are never woken up by a ‘beep’ or a ‘brrring from their mobile in the night. Only 1% of participants said they were woken every or almost every night by an electronic sound or alert. 

And it’s the same with checking messages in the middle of the night.  Although 4% of people checked their messages every night, almost 90% of participants said they would never or rarely do so.

Is the lure of modern technology keeping us from sleeping? Almost a quarter of people admit to watching TV, using their computer or playing with their mobile during the hours that they should be sleeping.  Whether they are more likely to have problems with insomnia, or daytime drowsiness we’ll have to wait to see.


We thought we’d take this simplistic analysis a little further and see if there are any clear differences amongst the Australian states - and we found a few.

Tasmania and Western Australian were the only states where participants were more likely to say they were getting the right amount of sleep.
Northern Territorians were most likely to feel tired – almost a third of them reported feeling tired most days.  Perhaps to compensate for this, 55% of Northern Territorian participants say they sleep in on the weekends, compared with only 38% of Queenslanders who are the least likely to try to catch up on sleep.

It might have had something to do with the Big Sleep Survey coinciding with the federal election that participants in the ACT were the most likely to feel irritated at least a few times throughout the month of August. But, South Australians take the hat for all out grumpiness – over 8% of the South Australians who did the questionnaire reported feeling irritable every or almost every day.


While this simple analysis gives a nice overview of the data collected by the Big Sleep Survey 2010, it’s when the scientists do their work that we will have truly accurate and meaningful results. 
Is this the biggest sleep survey ever? We’ll have to wait for the sleep scientists at the Woolock Institute to say for sure.  But we’re erring on the side of saying YES!
Information about the sleep scientists’ analysis of the results will appear in the ABC Science Updates email in future - you can join at ABC Science Online's Science Updates.

Thanks to everyone who took part.