CDC/NIOSH Analysis: "Many Workers Get Too Little Sleep"

Published March 8, 2017

​An analysis recently published in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) found that workers in occupations where alternative shift work is common, such as production, healthcare, and some transportation occupations, were more likely to have a higher adjusted prevalence of short sleep duration (less than seven hours). According to the report, nurses, home health aides, transportation inspectors, locomotive engineers, and subway operators were among those most likely to report not getting enough sleep. CDC researchers found that while overall prevalence of short sleep duration was 36.5 percent among the working adults who participated in the survey, “sleep duration varied widely by occupation.”

Teachers, farmers, and pilots were most likely to report getting enough sleep.

Researchers analyzed data from nearly 180,000 employed adults from 29 states who participated in the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) annual telephone survey conducted by U.S. states and territories in 2013 or 2014. BRFSS is intended to gather data on health-related risk behaviors, illnesses, and use of health-related services, and includes a set of core questions along with optional modules, like one on industry and occupation that was the focus of this study.

"Short sleep duration has been linked to various negative health outcomes including cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression, as well as to safety issues related to drowsy driving and injuries,” said study author Taylor Shockey, MPH, of NIOSH. “This research suggests that there are occupational differences in sleep duration making occupation an important factor to consider in sleep research and interventions."

The full report is available on CDC’s website.

NIOSH has developed several educational resources available for shift workers and those who work long hours. These resources include interactive training for nurses, emergency responders, and truck drivers, and materials on improving shift work schedules and individual coping strategies.

Related:A Good Night’s Sleep,” a feature article published in the January 2017 issue of The Synergist, discusses the complex problem of workplace fatigue.