How Work Is Messing Up Your Sleep

Apr 27, 2012
Originally published on April 27, 2012 5:24 pm

It's no secret that Americans are short on sleep. But there's been disagreement as to why. A new study says here's one big reason: work.

An analysis from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health asked people where they're working, and how much they sleep. The more people work, the less sleep they're likely to get. And some jobs are much less sleep-friendly than others. Sort of saw those coming, even through our bleary eyes.

Overall, a third of adult workers say they're sleeping six hours or less a night, compared with the seven to nine hours of shuteye recommended for good health.

People who are working more than one job are sleeping less than most, as are people working more than 40 hours a week. Divorced and separated people are short on sleep, too. That news will come as no surprise to single parents.

Who's hurting the most? On the day shift, it's people working in mining, with 41.6 percent sleeping less than six hours a night, and utilities, at 38 percent.

But that's nothing compared with the night shift, where 44 percent of those who toil say they're sleep-deprived. Worst of all: people who work in transportation or manufacturing. There, 70 percent of workers on the night shift are missing sleep. Trains, buses and semi-trucks driven by the sleep-deprived? Not a good idea.

The night shift in health care is no picnic either, with 52 percent of workers there reporting lack of sleep. A study late last year also found sleep to be a huge problem for police officers, but this report didn't separate them out.

Sleep is a health and safety issue, which is why this was published in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Sleepiness causes an increase in car accidents and accidents on the job. It also boosts the risk of obesity and cardiovascular disease. Not to mention doing a worse job on the job.

The night shift is especially bad, because it messes up natural circadian rhythms that promote sleep at night, and makes it harder to sleep during the day. It can be hard to get healthful meals and exercise while working nights, too.

Still, some people have figured out how to make that work. According to the survey, 90 percent of people working nights in "arts, entertainment, and recreation" say they're well-rested.

No word on why those folks are snoozing so serenely. Is it that the jobs are so darned much fun?

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