March is Sleep Awareness Month


The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society determined that adults require at least 7 hours of sleep per day to promote optimal health. Short sleep duration (< 7 hours per day) has been linked to various negative health outcomes including cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression, as well as safety issues related to drowsy driving and injuries.

Each year, short sleep duration among the U.S. working population accounts for an estimated $411 billion cost to the economy and results in 1.2 million lost work days. Because work-related factors such as job stress and shift work are associated with sleep duration and quality, the workplace should be considered in the development of interventions.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has published an article on short sleep duration by occupation group among 29 states using data from the 2013 and 2014 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS).  The survey responses for the question, “On average, how many hours of sleep do you get in a 24-hour period” were categorized as either short sleep (< 7 hours) or sufficient sleep (≥ 7 hours).

The study found that among 22 major occupation groups, the highest prevalences of short sleep duration were among production (42.9%); healthcare support (40.1%); and healthcare practitioners and technical (40.0%) occupations. Prior research has found that these three occupation groups also have some of the highest prevalence rates of alternative shift work.

A NIOSH study performed using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), found that night shift workers reported short sleep duration more frequently compared to daytime workers.

The current study on short sleep duration by occupation group also found that when broken down further into 93 detailed occupation groups, two out of the three groups with the highest prevalence of short sleep duration were transportation occupation groups: other transportation workers (54.0%) and rail transportation workers (52.7%).

The Railroaders’ Guide to Healthy Sleep provides information for workers and managers on how to improve sleep and create a better work and life balance.

The NIOSH webpage on work schedules includes links to several educational resources on improving work schedules in order to promote sleep and improve health. These resources are for managers, workers, and the general public. Information on training, and information specific to many different occupations including aviation, emergency responders, healthcare, and transportation is available.

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