Health and Wellness

Study: Jobs where people tend to be the most sleep deprived and the least

Courtney Hale | iStock | Getty Images

Many successful CEOs from Amazon's Jeff Bezos to Apple's Tim Cook wake up early to be productive — Cook is famous for waking up at 3:45 a.m. Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, goes to bed at 1 a.m. and wakes up at 7 a.m., because he says six hours of sleep seems to be his sweet spot.

And while these sleep schedules seem to work for high performing (and high paid) CEOs, among regular working Americans, sleep deficiency is on the rise, according to a new study from Ball State University researchers.

About 35% of working adults in the United States aren't getting sufficient sleep, and their job demands and stress may have something to do with it.

For the study researchers analyzed sleep data from the National Health Interview Survey, which included 158,468 employed people over age 17. They found that the number of people getting less than six hours of sleep each night (aka, "short sleep") rose about 5% between 2010 and 2018. (Adults ages 18 and older are supposed to get seven to eight hours of sleep each day, although that amount varies from person to person, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.)

The industries where sleep deficiency was most common were protective services (such as police and firefighters) and military, healthcare support (such as doctors and nurses), transportation and material moving (such as truck drivers) and production (such as factory workers).

"[It] is disconcerting because many of these occupations are related to population health, well-being and safety services," the researchers wrote.

It's troubling because sleep is directly related to daytime performance and productivity, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Getting enough sleep improves your ability to learn, make decisions and solve problems. On the flip side, when you're sleep deprived, you take longer to complete tasks and tend to make more mistakes. Past studies have shown, for example, that physicians who are sleep deprived are more prone to mistakes.

Although this study didn't examine why these jobs contributed to sleep deficiency, the researchers wrote that people who work long hours or unpredictable shifts, as well as those who don't have control over their work schedules (such as doctors), could be at risk of developing sleep issues. High-stress jobs may also be bad news for people's ability to get consistent, quality sleep.

Interestingly, self-employed people had the lowest rates of sleep-deprivation, possibly because they're able to set their own schedules.

A 2017 study suggests that insufficient sleep costs the United States between $280 and $411 billion each year in economic output.

Luckily, there are small habits that can improve your sleep quality, the authors of the new study wrote. For example, engaging in relaxing activities before bedtime like reading, practicing mindfulness, exercising four to eight hours before bedtime and avoiding alcohol are all good strategies for sleep.

Introducing stress-reducing programs or educating employees about proper sleep habits is one way that employers can help people get better sleep, and ultimately increase workplace productivity, the study authors said.

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