On the Bad Boy tax bracket anthem, “Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems,” the now-immortal hook goes, “I don't know what they want from me/It's like the more money we come across, the more problems we see.” Biggie, Mase, and Diddy were clearly speaking from experience, as having more money might lead to a host of new problems—perhaps higher taxes, condo fees on multiple properties, or maybe federal agents, mad ‘cause you’re flagrant. But apparently one they wealthy people don’t have to worry about is getting their rest. A study by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that rich people sleep better.
The agency surveyed nearly 140,000 adults in the United States between 2011 and 2014 and found that a higher income led to a higher likelihood that the individual would have had a full night's rest. The CDC considers a “full night of rest” six or more hours of sleep, and only 64.8% of the adults surveyed living below the poverty threshold got a full night of sleep. That means at least a third of people living below the poverty line don’t get enough sleep.
For adults making 400% above the threshold, the number of satisfied sleepyheads rose to 72.3%. The poverty threshold in 2014 was $11,670 for a single-person household and $23,850 for a four-person household. While the more financially secure of us may be telling ourselves that a single person making under $50,000 isn’t exactly rich, keep those stats in mine. About 40% of America makes less than 50k a year, actually, and while richness is largely subjective, we can all agree that more money gets you many things in this world, including access to Egyptian cotton sheets, lodging in a quiet neighborhood, and healthcare to deal with any sleep-related issues that might crop up.
While the study tells us that people with more money get better sleep than those with less, there’s no concrete consensus why, although you can safely assume that the rich-people things I named above play a part. “People who are financially well-off may have potentially better access to the external factors that affect sleep,” posits Abhinav Singh, sleep specialist, director of the Indiana Sleep Center, and a sleep consultant for the Indiana Pacers. (See? Basketball players make good money and therefore have a whole sleep consultant.) “It’s less likely that internal factors for the rich, like feeling peaceful and free of worry, are the cause of a better night sleep.”
And, not to be all #notallrichpeople, but rich people are still people, and they can have sleep problems, too. “While the rich may get more quantity and opportunity to sleep, remember that it remains unclear what anyone’s actual quality of sleep is like,” Singh adds. True, but, common sense could offer few conjectures as to why folks who can afford to replace their bedsheets every single night or fill their bed with a cool million in cash might enjoy more rest and relaxation.
Other studies might offer a clearer picture of the sleep divide. A study conducted by the CDC in 2017 looked at sleep patterns in folks by occupation, and found that people in production jobs, healthcare jobs like practitioners and support staff, and people working food preparation and server jobs get the least sleep of any occupation. Taking both studies into account, this may lead one to conclude that people in service oriented roles, typically lower paying careers like waiters and home health aides, might work more hours in order to get by, which may lead to getting less sleep.
“Psychologically, higher-income people don't have as many survival-level financial pressures on them. They are less likely to worry about bills that need to be paid,” says Ken Lewis, a Palm Beach, Florida-based psychologist with expertise in neurophenomenology and psychophysiology. People with more money often find it easier to pay people to take care of the parts of the day that bog the average human down, such as cleaning, cooking, and driving.
Lewis adds that folks with more financial freedom can afford psychiatrists to look after their mental health, and pay for assistance with legal matters. “They also can get more help in managing their children's needs including tutors, coaches, and nannies, making the burdens of raising a family that much lighter,” he says. “They can pay for housekeeping and other services to open up their free time and allow them the opportunity to unwind earlier in their days.”
Higher income groups are likely to have fewer financial-related worries overall, Singh adds, and larger homes in a better location that offer safety and quiet, access to healthcare and health-promoting resources (like exercise and healthier food options) and enough time to engage in health-promoting behaviors. All of these aspects can contribute to some pretty restful sleep.
On an existential level, people with higher-incomes tend to allow for a lot more freedom with their lives, Lewis says. We all know that sleep is a huge marker of overall health, and one of the major factors necessary for a human being to thrive. We all should be getting more of it, regardless of our income.