A third of American workers aren't getting enough sleep, and truck drivers are at the top of the list, according to a Ball State University study released earlier this month.
The study analyzed data from more than 150,000 working adults between 2010 to 2018 and found that the prevalence of "inadequate sleep"—defined as seven hours or less—is getting worse each year. In 2010, 31% of those surveyed reported getting seven or less hours of sleep per night, compared to 35.6% in 2018. Professions with the highest levels of poor sleep in 2018 included police and military (50%), health care support occupations (45%), transport and material moving (41%), and production occupations (41%), according to the study's authors.
The study links sleep deprivation to rising rates of chronic disease nationwide and urges employers to help workers address the problem.
"Inadequate sleep is associated with mild to severe physical and mental health problems, injury, loss of productivity, and premature mortality," said Jagdish Khubchandani, lead author of the study and a health science professor at Ball State, Muncie, Indiana. "This is a significant finding because the U.S. is currently witnessing high rates of chronic diseases across all ages, and many of these diseases are related to sleep problems."
Khubchandani added: "Employers have a major responsibility and should use health promotion strategies to ensure that workers who struggle with sleep problems are assisted. We all suffer when our bus and truck drivers, doctors, and nurses are sleep deprived."
The study found no cause for the trends in sleep duration in working Americans, but Khubchandani pointed to some workplace changes that may be having an influence, including the tendency to work longer hours and having greater access to and use of technology and electronic devices, which he said tend to "keep people up at night." Over-the-counter medications that can worsen insomnia are also a problem, he said.
"Add to this the progressive escalation in workplace stress in the United States, and the rising prevalence of multiple chronic conditions could be related to short sleep duration in working American adults," he added.
Raising awareness of the issue and improving diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders are keys to addressing the problem, the study showed.
"There needs to be [an] emphasis on public education, training for health professionals, and monitoring," Khubchandani said.