OUR JOBS ARE ROBBING US OF SLEEP. HERE’S WHAT WE CAN DO ABOUT IT.
We know, we know—it’s not good to stay up late, hanging out with Jimmy Fallon and scrolling through our Twitter feed when we should be asleep. That’s what keeps us reaching for the early-morning lattes and the under-eye concealer, right? Wrong.
You can actually blame chronic sleep loss on your job. According to a new study published in the journal Sleep, the leading cause of sleep deprivation in the U.S. is not “Game of Thrones,” sex, social media or indulging in all three together, as is widely speculated. It’s something that is supposed to be virtuous: paid work. According to the research, which was conducted via a survey of 124,000 Americans ages 15 and older, the dominant activity people exchange for sleep is rising early to commute to work.
“The evidence that time spent working was the most prominent sleep thief was overwhelming,” wrote the study’s lead author, Mathias Basner, M.D., Ph.D. Basner is an assistant professor of sleep and chronobiology in psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. Chronobiology—who knew that was a thing?—is an emerging area of science that looks at biological rhythms.
BY THE NUMBERS
Researchers divided the survey respondents into “normal” sleepers, who slept more than six hours a night, and “short” sleepers, who got six hours or less. People who had to be at work at 6 a.m. slept only an average of six hours, while people who had to be at work between 9 and 10 a.m. slept 7.29 hours on average. The self-employed slept 17 percent more than other workers, and people juggling multiple jobs slept the least of all.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls insufficient sleep a public health epidemic, linking it to depression, obesity, diabetes and cancer.
But…we gotta work, right? True, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls insufficient sleep a public health epidemic, linking it to depression, obesity, diabetes and cancer. Yikes. If that doesn’t send you diving under your duvet for some shut-eye, I don’t know what would.
WHAT WE CAN DO
The study’s results suggest several possible solutions for American workers’ chronic sleeplessness. For example, businesses can offer greater flexibility in work start times. Colleges can offer more classes at midday, instead of those 8 a.m. snooze-fests that pass for a lecture.
For our part, we can make getting seven to nine hours of sleep a night—the amount recommended by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine—a top priority. If that means turning in early because you have a morning commute, so be it. Ensure you’re getting quality sleep, too. Darken the room and turn the thermostat to a comfortable temperature (experts say between 68 and 72 degrees, depending on what works best for you). Splurge on a great new pillow. Do whatever it takes to make 2015 the year when you begin to feel healthy, productive, and alert.