Study Shows Americans Sacrifice Sleep for Work

December 30, 2014
Meghan Ross, Associate Editor

A new study explores what makes people get out of bed each day and what effect work has on sleep schedules.

A new study explores what makes people get out of bed each day and what effect work has on sleep schedules.

The results, published in Sleep, showed paid work time is the primary catalyst for waking up and getting out of bed.

The study authors used “short sleepers” to describe people who sleep 6 hours or less, and they found this group typically worked 1.55 more hours on weekdays and 1.86 more hours on weekends or holidays. People with less sleep also tended to start work earlier and stop working later compared with regular sleepers.

Those with the least amount of sleep were likely to be working multiple jobs, while the unemployed or retired slept more.

Travel time also affected short sleepers. Researchers found short sleepers leave the house earlier in the morning and stop work later in the evening than normal sleepers. The study authors discovered peak travel times were at 7:00 AM and 5:00 PM, which suggested to them that the majority of travel time pertained to commuting.

One of the lead authors, Mathias Basner, assistant professor of sleep and chronobiology in psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine in Philadelphia, offered a couple solutions to the sleep-deprived.

“Potential intervention strategies to decrease the prevalence of chronic sleep loss in the population include greater flexibility in morning work and class start times, reducing the prevalence of multiple jobs, and shortening morning and evening commute times,” Dr. Basner said in a press release.

Later work hours translated to more sleep, the study authors found. The researchers noted that every hour that work starts later in the morning, sleep time increases by around 20 minutes. Starting work at 6:00 AM or before led to an average of only 6 hours among the subjects.

The study involved 124,517 Americans 15 years and older. The respondents were asked how they spent their time between 4:00 AM on the previous day and 4:00 AM on the interview day, and the researchers categorized their activities. Napping, waking up, and dreaming, were included in the sleeping category.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that 30% of employed US adults sleep 6 hours or less, while the American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.