Work Instead of Sleep


Sleeping in on weekends used to be a luxury. Now, for many, it is a necessity because they chose to work more hours and sleep less during the week. By the time Saturday rolls around, they are exhausted and longing to catch up on rest.

Working long hours and sleeping less used to be the norm, but is not any longer. In fact, over 33 percent of adults in the U.S. get less than 7 hours of sleep a night during the week, according to research.

A team of researchers reviewed the 125,000 responses gathered by the American Time Use Survey. The research team sought to determine how much sleep the typical adult is getting, and then what activities might be cutting into the time that might be used for rest.

The researchers categorized adults as “short sleepers” if those people typically get 6 hours or less of sleep on average per night during the workweek. Those who got at least 7 hours of rest per night were considered to be more “normal sleepers.”

The analysis determined that short sleepers work more hours than normal sleepers. On average, short sleepers worked 90 more minutes on weekdays and 2 hours more on weekends and holidays than the others. Adults working multiple jobs were 61 percent more likely than others to sleep 6 hours or less on weekdays as they juggled their schedules.

The evidence was overwhelming that time spent working was the top sleep thief, according to the study’s lead author Dr. Mathias Basner, a University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine assistant professor of sleep and chronobiology in psychiatry.

In addition to time at work, commuting also competed with sleep, cutting into their days by almost a half hour on average. After that, the activities that most interfered with a good night’s sleep were socializing, laying awake tossing and turning, grooming and then health problems. It may surprise college and high school students (as well as their parents) that staying up doing homework was number 10 on the list. For those curious, having sex did not make the top 10 reasons people lost sleep.

The research team also sliced the data by type of employer. They found no difference in sleep between those working for the government versus the private sector. One surprising result was that people who are self-employed actually got more sleep versus working longer hours. The researchers theorize that being self-employed offers people greater flexibility with their schedules. Whether that means starting earlier or later, those in business for themselves manage to sleep more.

The dearth of sleep, however, is taking a toll on health and productivity. People spending more time at work instead of at sleep are not as healthy in the long run. Being drowsy at work, leads to more accidents and errors. Driving while drowsy causes an estimated 80,000 auto accidents annually. Sleep shortages also lead to more snacking, drinking caffeinated beverages and getting less exercise, as a result insufficient rest is tied to obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure.

By Dyanne Weiss

Washington Post
Toronto Star
Daily Herald
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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