Do you sacrifice sleep for work?
A new study shows people are exchanging work for a good night’s sleep, and trying to make up for the lack of shut-eye on the weekends.
A team of researchers recently examined nearly 125,000 responses to the American Time Use Survey from 2003 to 2011 and determined those people who slept less worked more and had longer commutes. The study was published in the December issue of the scientific journal Sleep.
“We live in a 24-hour society, but people need to be protective of their sleep,” says Dr. Pradip Sethi, neurologist on staff at Elgin, Ill.-based Advocate Sherman Hospital. “This is a difficult problem that’s not easy to solve, and people must realize the importance of adequate sleep.”
Compared to normal sleepers, “short sleepers” – those who sleep six hours or less each night – worked more than an hour and a half more on weekdays and nearly two hours more on weekends and holidays, according to the study. Short sleepers also started work earlier and stopped working later.
Burning the candle at both ends carries both short- and long-term consequences. Sleep deprivation puts people at a higher risk for heart problems, high blood pressure and diabetes, to name a few.
“It’s like jetlag on a daily basis,” Dr. Sethi says. “You can’t make up for it on the weekends because it’s difficult to readjust. Being healthy and alert starts with the proper amount of rest, which varies from person to person.”
Thirty-percent of employed American adults typically sleep six hour or less, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends adults get between seven and nine hours of sleep for optimal health, productivity and daytime alertness.
“If you have children or other societal pressures, it can be very hard, if not impossible, to get to bed early,” Dr. Sethi says. “We are designed to sleep at night and be awake during the day, and need to maintain these rhythms to perform our best.”
People with multiple jobs were 61-percent more likely to report sleeping six hours or less on weekdays, the study shows. Those were retired, unemployed or absent from the workforce were less likely to be short sleepers and sleep significantly longer.
The self-employed also reported more hours of sleep than private-sector employees, and were 17-percent less likely to be short sleepers.
The study also shows that flexible work start times may be one solution to reduce chronic sleep loss.
With every hour that work or educational training started later in the morning, sleep time increased by approximately 20 minutes. Those who completed the survey slept an average of six hours when starting work before or at 6 a.m., and more than seven hours when starting work between 9 and 10 a.m.
“Early start times and shift work can wreak havoc on sleeping patterns,” Dr. Sethi says. “It creates problems because your internal clock never really adjusts. People have to be aware of these issues, and set aside time to sleep.”
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