About one out of three workers in the United States gets less than six hours of sleep per night. A new study finds a primary cause of this sleep deprivation to be work itself.

The primary role of sleep is to replenish the body’s energy supplies that have been used throughout the day. There are number of factor that have associated with sleep patterns in humans, but some of the main categories include age, a person’s physical size, size, muscle mass, brain size, and present level of physical fitness.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends adults get about 7 to 9 hours of nightly sleep for optimal health, productivity and daytime alertness. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 30 percent of employed U.S. adults, which represents approximately 40.6 million workers, typically sleep 6 hours or less in a 24-hour period. Sleep deprivation is associated with increased morbidity and mortality, but little research has been done to ascertain the basic causes of why adults, on average, get less sleep than they need.

According to one study that sought to shed light on the subject, paid work time is the main activity that leads to less sleep. The study based its findings on responses from 124,517 Americans ages 15 and above who completed the American Time Use Survey from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics between 2003 and 2011.

Some other key findings of the survey are that people who sleep six hours or less per night:

  • Worked 1.55 more hours on weekdaysTired Commute
  • Worked 1.86 more hours on weekends and holidays
  • Started working earlier in the morning
  • Stopped working later at night
  • Traveled more
  • Started traveling earlier in the morning
  • Stopped traveling later in the evening
  • Were more likely to be working multiple jobs. Adults working more than one job were 61 percent more likely than others to report sleeping six hours or less per night.

These results point to several possible solutions for workers’ lack of sleep, with researchers offering suggestions for employers that could help prevent this type of sleep loss.

They include:

  • Greater flexibility in morning work start times
  • Reducing the prevalence of people having multiple jobs
  • Shortening morning and evening commute times

The study shows with every hour that work started later in the morning, sleep time increased by 20 minutes. Survey respondents who woke up before 6 a.m. averaged only 6 hours of sleep. People who started work between 9 and 10 a.m. were able to obtain an average of 7.29 hours of sleep.

Results show that with every hour that work or educational training started later in the morning, sleep time increased by approximately 20 minutes. Respondents who were self-employed with more flexible work times also obtained significantly more sleep than private sector employees and were 17 percent less likely to be a short sleeper, according to the study.

In other words, it could pay for people to be allowed to get their ZZZs.


  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25325472



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