A recent survey of 150,000 Americans, 15 years of age or older, came up with the disturbing finding that too many of us are exchanging work for sleep. The survey showed that short sleepers — those who routinely sleep six or fewer hours a night — worked 1.55 more hours per week than good sleepers, plus nearly two hours more on weekends. In addition, they tended to have longer commute times.
“Work is the No. 1 sleep killer,” said Dr. Mathias Basner, an assistant professor of sleep and chronobiology in psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine.
Dr. Alon Avidan, director of the University of California, Los Angeles Sleep Disorders Center, called results of the survey “a trend that is a bit disturbing.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates the percentage of Americans who get six or fewer hours of sleep a night at 30, a result derived from different studies than the one cited above.
The obvious solution to work-induced sleep deprivation is more flexible work hours and shorter commutes, goals that often elude many Americans. On the brighter side, other studies have shown that the retired, self-employed and unemployed are much more likely to get the seven to nine hours of sleep a night that is most beneficial to good health, proving that work is truly the premier sleep wrecker for many of us.
Short sleepers are also prone to often-unnecessary health risks because of their sleep deprivation. Short sleepers often experience obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, chronic health disease and even stroke.
If you have sleep issues, whether related to work schedules and commutes or not, you need to take action. Good sleep hygiene can go a long way toward restoring sound sleep. Often,the actions you take after returning home and before going to bed — including what you eat and drink, which electronic devices you use and when — can either help or hurt your sleep.
If you feel sleep deprived and fatigued in the daytime, by all means seek professional help, starting with your family physician. If you still face issues, then make an appointment with a sleep professional ASAP. Don’t let work rob you of life’s health and vitality.