In the most recent Sleep in America Poll, the National Sleep Foundation took a close look at how sleep impacts the performance and safety of those working in our transportation industry.  The results were somewhat alarming. Airline pilots and train operators are the most sleep deprived with more than 20% of each group reporting that sleepiness has impacted their job performance in the last month.   Transportation workers were the focus of this year’s poll, in part because sleep deprivation in these professions can have very serious consequences, which could in turn affect many other people.  But they aren’t the only professions that are generally suffering from lack of sleep.

Here are the 5 most sleep deprived occupations according to data from the National Health Interview Survey and some of the consequences sleep deprivation can have on job performance.


1.     Home Health Aides

At just under 7 hours per night on average, home health aides win the award for the most sleep deprived occupation.  They can add that to their long running award for being one of the lowest paid professions in the U.S.  Perhaps the reason they aren’t getting enough sleep is because they are up all night worrying about their finances or working a second job to pay their bills.  Considering that they work with the disabled, chronically ill, and those in hospice care, it may also be the stress of caring for someone else when you are barely making enough to take care of yourself that is robbing them of sleep.


2.     Lawyers

Lawyers only lost the most sleep deprived prize by 3 minutes, coming in at exactly 7 hours of sleep on average each night.  Why are lawyers lacking sleep?  Perhaps it is the grueling schedule they keep while working to become partner or the moral quandary posed by representing someone they know is guilty.  It may just be that as a high-power, high-pressure career, lawyers are more likely to sacrifice sleep to get ahead.


3.     Police Officers

It is probably a good thing that police officers average one extra minute of sleep each night than lawyers since they are more likely to be chasing down criminals and need a little extra energy.  Blame their sleep deprivation on erratic schedules and odd shifts that can wreak havoc with the body’s internal clock and biological rhythms.  It is a little unsettling to know that the good guys with the guns are suffering from sleep deprivation.


4.     Physicians and Paramedics

Next on the list are physicians and paramedics who are only minutes behind lawyers and cops in the sleep deprivation game.  Paramedics likely struggle with the same types of issues as police officers, working

odd shifts with an erratic schedule and extremely stressful situations.  The idea that physicians average slightly more than 7 hours of sleep a night may be a misnomer as residents and interns are known to get much less sleep than that on a regular basis.  In fact, the risk to patient care caused by the extraordinary sleep deprivation experienced by doctors in these programs is the driving force to overhaul the way doctors are trained.


5.     Economists, Social Workers, and Computer Programmers

These three professions all tie for a 5th place finish getting an additional minute of sleep per night than the doctors and EMTs.  While it is interesting to see economists on the list, it is also refreshing to think that they are up at night worrying about the economy just like the rest of us, even if it isn’t proven.  Social workers have a lot to worry about and may have to answer emergency calls in the middle of the night.  Computer programmers, well, there are a variety of reasons that they might not be getting the sleep they need but let’s leave it at technology can be a sleep stealer.

The truth of the matter is, only 5 minutes of sleep separate the occupations on this list and if you compare home health aides to loggers, who get the most sleep, there is only a differential of about 20 minutes.  What does all of this data mean to us? It tells us that the real message here is that the majority of Americans, regardless of profession, are not getting the sleep they need.

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