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WORK-LIFE BALANCE / DEC. 18, 2014
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Study Reveals That We Are Exchanging Sleep For Work

It’s hard to dispute the positive impact being well rested has on our engagement and productivity levels at work.  It’s worrying, therefore, that a large number of us still appear to be going to work each day without having had enough sleep the night before.

A recent study revealed that we’re increasingly sacrificing sleep for more hours at work, and that a big cause of this is the inflexible work hours that so many workplaces still seem to force upon employees.

The paper reveals that nearly all sociodemographic groups are giving work greater priority than they do sleep.  It emerged that those who reported 6 hours or less of sleep were working on average one and a half hours more per week day, and nearly two hours per day on weekends.  This generally corresponded with starting work earlier, and finishing later than their peers who were getting the regulation eight hours of sleep a night.

This trend was most apparent amongst those with multiple jobs, with some 61 percent of them revealing that they achieved six hours or less of sleep per night.

"The evidence that time spent working was the most prominent sleep thief was overwhelming," the researchers say.

Inside the life of a short sleeper

These so called ’short sleepers’ were also shown to travel much more than average, with this traveling starting earlier in the morning and finishing much later in the evening than normal.  This was strongly associated with commuting to work, which has been shown by various studies to be enormously stressful.

Thankfully, the paper suggests that there are potential remedies for this situation, and highlights a number of coping strategies short sleepers can deploy.

"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," the paper revealed.

The virtue of more flexible working

The paper goes on to highlight just how beneficial flexible working is.  For every hour that work started later each morning, the sleep time of respndents was shown to increase by around twenty minutes.  So when work started at 6am, the average sleep totaled just 6 hours, whereas if work started at 9am, people were found to get 7.29 hours of sleep on average.

This was typified by self employed respondents who had significant control over their work patterns and were therefore 17 percent less likely to be a short sleeper than their salaried peers.

"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," the researchers suggest.

The findings chime with data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which revealed that as many as 30 percent of adult (and employed) Americans were sleeping less than 6 hours per day.  When scaled up, that suggests that over 40 million people are getting less than the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep each night.

How many hours do you typically get per night?  Let us know in the comments below.

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