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Build Your Career Work-Life Balance

How Your Job Affects How Much Sleep You Get

How Your Job Affects How Much Sleep You Get
Credit: Liu/Shutterstock

If you're not getting enough sleep each night, you likely have your job to thank for it, new research suggests.

Starting work early in the morning, working late hours, holding multiple jobs and having long commutes are the activities most Americans are giving up their sleep for, according to a study published in the December issue of the journal Sleep.

The research revealed that compared to normal sleepers, short sleepers get less than 6 hours of shut-eye a night, worked 1.55 more hours on weekdays and 1.86 more hours on weekends or holidays. They also started working earlier in the morning and stopped working later at night. In addition, employees working multiple jobs were 61 percent more likely than others to sleep 6 hours or less on weekdays.

"The evidence that time spent working was the most prominent sleep thief was overwhelming," Mathias Basner, the study's lead author and an assistant professor of sleep and chronobiology in psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine, said in a statement.

The study discovered that short sleepers also traveled more, started traveling earlier in the morning, and stopped later in the evening than normal sleepers, which, researchers say, suggests that the majority of travel time is associated with commuting.

"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," Basner said.

The research found that with every hour that work started later in the morning, sleep time increased by about 20 minutes. Specifically, workers sleep an average of only 6 hours when starting work before or at 6 a.m. and 7.29 hours when starting work between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. [10 Most Sleep-Deprived Careers ]

Those who are self-employed with more flexible work times also obtained significantly more sleep and were 17 percent less likely to be a short sleeper.

Employees who get more sleep at night are going to be more productive workers during the day, said Dr. Timothy Morgenthaler, president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

"Getting at least seven hours of nightly sleep is essential to be at your mental, emotional and physical best for whatever you will pour yourself into, either at work or at home," Morgenthaler said.

The study was based on an analysis of responses from 124,517 Americans 15 years and older who completed the American Time Use Survey between 2003 and 2011. The survey asks participants how they spent their time between in one 24-hour day. Responses were combined into 40 distinct activities. Included in the "sleeping" category were napping, waking up and dreaming.

The study, co-authored by the University of Pennsylvania's Andrea Spaeth and David Dinges, was supported by funding from the National Institute of Nursing Research of the National Institutes of Health and by the National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) through NASA.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance writer who has nearly 15 years experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.