Over one-third of currently employed U.S. adults have reported having short sleep duration. The findings come from a first-of-its-kind Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) analysis which assessed sleep duration by occupation groups. 

The CDC analysis was based on data from adults surveyed for the 2013 and 2014 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) in 29 states. 

Participants were asked, ‘On average, how many hours of sleep do you get in a 24-hour period?’ The researchers defined ≥7 hours of sleep as ‘sufficient sleep’, while <7 hours was defined as ‘short sleep duration’ (SSD). Ninety-three occupations were coded from the Bureau of Census; these were further filtered into the 22 major occupation groups determined by the Bureau of Labor. 

Respondents reported an overall short sleep duration of 36.5%. The highest prevalences were reported by men, non-Hispanic blacks (48.5%), persons with some college education (40.0%), and persons who were divorced, widowed, separated or never married (39.5%). 

For the 22 major occupation categories, the highest prevalence of SSD was reported in Production Healthcare Support (40.1%), Healthcare Practitioners and Technical (40.0%), Food Preparation and Serving-Related (39.8%), and Protective Service (39.2%).  

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For the detailed groups, the occupation with highest prevalences of SSD was communications equipment operators (58.2%), followed by other transportation workers (54.0%), and rail transportation workers (52.7%). The detailed groups with the lowest prevalences of short sleep duration were air transportation workers (21.4%) and religious workers (22.4%).

The wide variety of responses between workers in the major group of ‘transportation and material moving’ (air transportation workers reported 21% SSD while other transportation workers reported 54%) reflects rule changes made by the Federal Aviation Administration. In 2011, commercial airline pilot scheduling was overhauled to ensure pilots gain rest before flying.

The CDC’s analysis highlights the affect sleep deprivation has on the economy, with an estimated $411 billion dollar annual cost to the economy. However, the trends show that time at work is continuing to increase, with the U.S. at the top for longest annual working hours among all wealthy industrialized countries (Luckhaupt SE, Tak S, Calvert GM. 2010 ).

The goal of the government initiative, Healthy People 2020, will be to increase the proportion of adults getting sufficient sleep and to “increase public knowledge of how adequate sleep and treatment of sleep disorders improve health, productivity, wellness, quality of life, and safety on roads and in the workplace.” 

For more information visit CDC.gov.