30% of Workers Get Far Too Little Sleep

Lack of Sleep Potentially Putting Public and Workers at Risk

From the WebMD Archives

April 26, 2012 -- U.S. workers are not getting nearly enough sleep.

Fully 30% of U.S. adults -- or 40.6 million workers -- sleep six or fewer hours a day, a new CDC report shows.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends we get seven to nine hours of sleep each day. Most at risk, according to the report, are people who work the night shift, especially those in the transportation, warehouse, and health care industries.

And sleep deprivation has consequences. "If a person doesn't get the recommended amount of sleep, they are at increased risk of injuries that could affect them or the general public if they are a commercial driver," says researcher Sara Luckhaupt, MD, MPH. She is a medical officer in the division of surveillance, hazard evaluations, and field studies at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health in Washington, D.C.

Illuminating Luckhaupt's point: Drowsy drivers play a role in up to 20% of car crashes.

Lack of sleep on a chronic basis also increases risk for other health conditions such as obesity, depression, heart disease, and diabetes.

According to the new report, 44% of people who worked the night shift were short-sleepers, compared with 28.8% of those who worked during the day. People aged 30 to 44 made up the age group most likely to be sleep deprived.

Others who are not getting enough sleep include people who hold down more than one job, widows, divorcees, or recently separated partners. The findings are based on data from the 2010 National Health Interview Survey. They appear in the April 27 issue of the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Sleep Tips for Employers and Employees

Getting more sleep may be easier said the done in today's hyper-competitive, no-downtime society.

Still, employers can, and should, take steps to make sure that workers are getting the appropriate amount of sleep. This may mean tweaking night shift schedules and placing limits on how many nights a person can work in a row, Luckhaupt says.

Employee wellness initiatives should also include education about a healthy sleep routine.

This mean encouraging workers to:

  • Go to bed at the same time each day or night.
  • Create a relaxing bedroom environment that is conducive to sleep.
  • Avoid reading or watching TV in bed.
  • Avoid large meals before bed.
  • Turn off their mobile phone or PDA before sleep.