Top 10 Sleep Deprived Professions in the U.S.

If you work, there’s a good chance you’re not getting enough sleep. That’s an easy observation to make. We could all use an extra hour (or four) of sleep each night.

But which professions are the most sleep deprived and what does this say about our attitude towards work and public health?

Firefighter on duty

Top 10 Sleep Deprived Professions (and Top 5 Industries) in the U.S.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), adults spend an average of 8.53 hours with their heads on the pillow each night.

Here’s the thing though. That figure includes retirees and everyone who doesn’t work. In fact, the same report says Americans spend just over 4.5 hours working each day so that should give you an idea of how the average pans out.

The bottom line is that people who work don’t get enough sleep, regardless of the occupation or industry. If you hold a job in any of the positions below, there’s roughly a 50/50 chance you don’t get enough sleep to stay healthy, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

  1. Communications equipment operators – 58.2%
  2. Transportation workers (other) – 54.0%
  3. Rail transportation workers – 52.7%
  4. Printing workers – 50.9%
  5. Plant and system operators – 49.6%
  6. TIE: Production supervisors AND supervisors, food production, or serving workers – 48.9%
  7. Entertainment attendants and related professions (ex: casino workers) – 48.2%
  8. Firefighters and prevention workers – 45.8%
  9. Production, other – 45.6%
  10. Office material recording, dispatching, scheduling, and distribution workers – 44.6%

Although those are the most sleep deprived professions, each industry has outlier positions that impact its total shut-eye figure. These are the top-five industries with sleepy workers.

  1. Production – 42.9%
  2. Healthcare support (such as home health aides and physical therapist aides) – 40.1%
  3. Healthcare administrators and technicians – 40.0%
  4. Food preparation and serving – 39.8%
  5. Protective service (such as police and first responders) – 39.2%

What Does This Say About Our Society?

Look at the list above and you’ll notice many of the most sleep deprived individual positions are entry-level jobs requiring just a high school diploma.

Take communication equipment operators (call center employees), rail transportation, printing, and food service, for instance. These workers likely make minimum wage or slightly more and probably work long hours to cover expenses.

Also consider that some of society’s most important workers aren’t getting enough sleep.

It’s a running joke throughout the healthcare industry that nursing and sleep deprivation go hand-in-hand. Healthcare workers, home health aides, and first responders literally hold society’s life in their hands yet their own health is clearly impacted by chronic sleep deprivation.

Sleep deprived and exhausted businessman

Other Factors at Play

Industry and profession play a large role in determining whether or not a worker is sleep deprived but other factors are at play, according to a 2014 report from the CDC.

  • Geographic location: Midwestern and southern states get the least amount of sleep.
  • Race: Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders, and the Black community are the most sleep deprived groups.
  • Health: People struggling with obesity or a chronic illness get less sleep than others.
  • Age: People over 65 get more sleep than their younger (working) counterparts.

Make Sleep a Priority

Missing your full eight on a regular basis isn’t just an inconvenience, it has dangerous consequences.

Chronic sleep deprivation can severely impact a person’s judgment, motor skills, and memory – all of which diminish a worker’s efficiency, production, and safety.

It can also increase a person’s risk for becoming obese or developing chronic illnesses like diabetes or cardiovascular disease.

Experts say that driving while drowsy – even after missing just an hour or two of sleep – is on-par with driving drunk. How many accidents on the job do you think could be attributed to sleep deprivation?

Work is important but so is public health. We all deserve to get the rest we need each night.