News & Politics

Washington D.C. the 'Undisputed Insomnia Capital of America'

A war of words exists between our nation’s largest city and our nation’s capital. Smug New Yorkers sneer derisively at Washingtonians and their meager city. Among other reasons, New Yorkers consider D.C.’s restaurant and nightlife scene vastly inferior to the Big Apple’s. D.C. residents, of course, push back and argue that the nation’s capital is superior to NYC. While not settling the debate about which city has a better nightlife, a new study published by Calm states in no uncertain terms that Washington, D.C., is the “U.S. insomnia capital.” Whether D.C. residents are using their sleeplessness to party or not is still up for debate.

Calm is a blog that is dedicated to preaching the health benefits of a good night’s sleep. After analyzing close to two million pieces of data generated by their users, they ranked the nation’s cities based on how much sleep residents get. Some surprises are revealed. As Calm points out, New York City is known as “the city that never sleeps.” A tag-line made famous by the theme song from Martin Scorsese’s New York, New York. The song was covered by Frank Sinatra and now most Americans believe that New York City is truly the city that never sleeps. Well, not so fast, according to Calm:

Calm’s study will only heighten the fears of many New Yorkers that their city is losing its once famed fizz and pace, grit and pulse – and growing gentrified, sterile and sleepy.

It follows a 2011 study of the world’s most 24-hour cities conducted by the dating app, which ranked New York a lowly 32nd place among the world’s most round-the-clock cities, leagues behind the likes of London, Paris and Rome.

Washington, D.C., on the other hand, is a city with inhabitants who are lacking in sleep. Seattle is listed by Calm as the second highest on their Insomnia Index. However, the space separating D.C. and Seattle is sizeable — 2.75 for D.C. and a 2.22 for Seattle. The third place city, Dallas, has an Insomnia Index of only 1.10. The Insomnia Index is based on two main variables:

  • First, the percentage of each city’s total population to have picked “Better sleep” as one of their goals on signing up to Calm, and then
  • Second, the percentage of its population that had then completed at least one piece of sleep-related content (such as Sleep Stories, sleep music or meditations) on Calm (as opposed to non-sleep-related meditations, classes or other content.)

Using those two variables, the study points to the reality that inhabitants of D.C.:

[A]re more likely than those in any other major US city first to sign up for Calm and then to select “Better sleep” as a goal when doing so. They are also more likely then to go on and consume sleep-related content.

“Washington is the undisputed Insomnia Capital of America,” says Alex Tew, Calm’s co-founder. “No other city comes close.”


Based on the rankings, Columbus, Ohio, is the city with residents that have sleep habits that reflect the average urban dweller. El Paso’s residents sleep the best, according to Calm. One interesting note is that Atlanta is not included on the list. Due to Georgia’s annexing laws, the actual city of Atlanta is not that big. What everyone thinks of as Atlanta, though, is massive. One final thought: it would be interesting to see a study comparing the sleep habits of urbanites versus those who live in rural America. I think we can guess the results. Maybe, though, like this recent study produced by  Calm, some surprises would be revealed.