Best and Worst Cities for Sleep

Ryan Fiorenzi, BS, Certified Sleep Science Coach - Updated on July 12th, 2023

There are many factors contributing to a city ranking either good or bad on this list. For example, noise, air, and light pollution, commute times, and the health of the citizens. The best and worst come from the CDC's 500 Cities Project that measured the percentage of people getting less than 7 hours of sleep per night.

The 10 Best Cities for Sleep:

  1. Ft. Collins, CO
  2. Loveland, CO
  3. Boulder, CO
  4. Overland Park, KS
  5. Arvada, CO
  6. Plymouth, MN
  7. Lakewood, CO
  8. Santa Fe, NM
  9. Longmont, CO
  10. Iowa City, IA

The 10 Worst Cities for Sleep:

  1. Gary, IN
  2. Detroit, MI
  3. Camden, NJ
  4. Honolulu, HI
  5. Newark, NJ
  6. Birmingham, AL
  7. Albany, GA
  8. Mount Vernon, NY
  9. Macon, GA
  10. Youngstown, OH

Factors That Influence Sleep

Noise Pollution

Every city has different levels of noise pollution, but two of the top contributing factors are population and population density. Top noise contributors include the trucking industry, airports, residential and city traffic, ports, and construction. Visit the Department of Transportation to interact with their National Noise Map.


Air Pollution

This factor is especially important for people with breathing issues such as asthma and allergies. The American Lung Association ranks the top worst cities for air pollution by ozone, year-round particle pollution, and short-term particle pollution.

Light Pollution

Seeing light at night disrupts our circadian rhythm, telling our brains that it's time to be awake, which can both prevent and interrupt sleep.

According to an article by researchers at the Italian Light Pollution Science and Technology Institute published in Science Advances, 99% of The United States and Europe are dealing with light pollution. The top area without light pollution is Africa: Chad, Madagascar, and the Central African Republic.



In the United States, you'll notice there's almost a line drawn that divides the country into East and West, with the West having far less light pollution, except for a few metro areas like Los Angeles and Seattle.


Commute Times

Longer commute times are stressful, and stress can make it difficult for people to get high-quality sleep.

The longest commute times are generally associated with larger metro areas, and shorter commute times with smaller metro areas. The U.S. Census Bureau for 2017 lists over 1,000 U.S. cities by average commute time. With the average U.S. commute time at 26.3 minutes, one of the worst is the New York-Newark-Jersey City, N.Y.-N.J.-Pa., metropolitan area at 35.9 minutes. One of the best is Grand Forks, N.D.-Minn., metropolitan area with an average of 15.5 minutes.


According to the data from the CDC published by the Washington Post, the unemployed are 5% more likely to not get 7 hours of sleep per night. To see current unemployment data for metro areas, visit the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics.

One of the links between unemployment and lack of quality sleep is depression. However, the relationship between sleep and depression is not simple. Depression may cause sleep problems, and sleep problems can cause or increase depression. To learn more about the relationship between sleep and depression, read our guide.

A Gallup poll from 2014 found that unemployed Americans are twice as likely to be treated for depression than those with jobs. And the longer they're unemployed, the higher the rates of depression. One in five Americans who have been out of work for a year or more are being treated for depression, which is almost double the rate of those who have been unemployed for 5 weeks or less.

Marital Status

The Washington Post published data from the CDC showing the percentage of Americans getting less than 7 hours of sleep regularly:

  • Married: 33%
  • Never married: 38%
  • Divorced: 44%
  • Widowed: 44%
  • Separated: 44%

Health Risk Factors

As well as the obvious sleep disorders such as sleep apnea and restless legs syndrome, the CDC listed obesity, inactivity, smoking, and excessive alcohol consumption as the top factors associated with shorter sleep duration.


There's a strong link between obesity and lack of sleep, and much of the research points to lack of sleep causing obesity. Researchers from the University of Chicago and University of Turin have found:

  • There's been a worldwide increase in obesity in children and adults matched by a trend in reduced sleep times.
  • Chronic partial sleep loss is associated with an increase in the risk of obesity.
  • Lack of sleep leads to changes in hormone levels that increase the rates of calorie consumption and a decrease in energy expenditure.
  • Sleep apnea and poor sleep quality may increase obesity risk.


The CDC found that rates of inactivity were lowest in adults who slept 7 to 8 hours, and highest in those who slept less than 7 hours and more than 9 hours.


According to the National Institutes of Health, smokers are significantly more likely to have problems falling asleep, staying asleep, and with daytime sleepiness.

As of 2016, the average rate of smoking for men was 17.5%, and women, 13.5%.



According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcohol has extensive effects on sleep and daytime sleepiness as it affects hormone levels and neurochemicals. According to Dr. Michael Breus, a Diplomate of the American Board of Sleep Medicine and a Fellow of The American Academy of Sleep Medicine, "The more you drink, and the closer your drinking is to bedtime, the more it will negatively impact your sleep. Even moderate amounts of alcohol in your system at bedtime alter sleep architecture—the natural flow of sleep through different stages. It also leads to lighter, more restless sleep as the night wears on, diminished sleep quality, and next-day fatigue."