Short Sleep Duration by Occupation Group

Posted on by Taylor Shockey, MPH

March is Sleep Awareness Month.  The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society determined that adults require at least 7 hours of sleep per day to promote optimal health. Short sleep duration (< 7 hours per day) has been linked to various negative health outcomes including cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression, as well as safety issues related to drowsy driving and injuries. Each year, short sleep duration among the U.S. working population accounts for an estimated $411 billion cost to the economy and results in 1.2 million lost work days. Because work-related factors such as job stress and shift work are associated with sleep duration and quality, the workplace should be considered in the development of interventions.

On March 3, 2017, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) published an article on short sleep duration by occupation group among 29 states using data from the 2013 and 2014 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS).  The survey responses for the question, “On average, how many hours of sleep do you get in a 24-hour period” were categorized as either short sleep (< 7 hours) or sufficient sleep (≥ 7 hours).  The study found that among 22 major occupation groups, the highest prevalences of short sleep duration were among production (42.9%); healthcare support (40.1%); and healthcare practitioners and technical (40.0%) occupations. Prior research has found that these three occupation groups also have some of the highest prevalence rates of alternative shift work. A NIOSH study performed using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) found that night shift workers reported short sleep duration more frequently compared to daytime workers.

The current study on short sleep duration by occupation group also found that when broken down further into 93 detailed occupation groups, two out of the three groups with the highest prevalence of short sleep duration were transportation occupation groups: other transportation workers (54.0%) and rail transportation workers (52.7%). The Railroaders’ Guide to Healthy Sleep provides information for workers and managers on how to improve sleep and create a better work and life balance.

Additional Resources for Employers and Employees:

The NIOSH webpage on work schedules includes links to several educational resources on improving work schedules in order to promote sleep and improve health. These resources are for managers, workers, and the general audience. There are trainings and information specific to many different occupations including aviation, emergency responders, healthcare, and transportation.

We would like to hear from you. How is your workplace trying to improve the sleep quality and sleep duration of its employees?  Please share strategies and programs in the comment section below.

Taylor Shockey, MPH, is a Title 42 Fellow in the NIOSH Division of Surveillance, Hazard Evaluations and Field Studies.


Posted on by Taylor Shockey, MPH

5 comments on “Short Sleep Duration by Occupation Group”

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    This is a highly needed occupational health issue to share as an educational topic for people in supervisory positions to create awareness of this important health issue to prevent the development of more health complications as diabetes, hypertension , depression which impacts the productivity of the employees and increases accidents and mortality. This awareness campaign is to be shared at all levels in the different working environments.

    In china ,have many traditional methods,I recommend a easy method.

    when you lie down and prepare sleep, close your eyes ,forget where are you,imagine you lie the hillside , deep deep breathe ,breathe must light and long, until you tummy inflation,close you mouth,wait 5 second,exhale empty tummy air,end.circulation 10 time.

    sorry my english is not well,hope audience understand.


    Thank you for this article. This is an all too common health concern and the problem, as I see it, is that, while there is an economic imperative for many sectors of the economy to operate 24×7, there is no economic incentive to help workers who have to adhere to irregular shifts.

    In many occupations the people who get the “worst” shifts are usually (not always) workers who have the least clout. They might be new to their profession, coming back after maternity leave, etc. As such, they are not in the best position to be making demands for a “safe” working environment. By “safe” I mean one in which they will be more likely to get a full night’s sleep, but also where they might have special lighting or whatever might help to stave off illness.

    The other part of the problem is that this illness might not show up for years. Lack of sleep might increase stress and lead to depression or many other physical ailments, but it might take years for that to happen. There would be no way to hold employers accountable for this, which is just one more reason for employers NOT to take proper action.

    Unfortunately, asking employers to behave altruistically towards their most “replaceable” employees may not be feasible. It may take governmental regulations and penalties before change is achieved.

    Thank you for this article.

    Best regards,


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Page last reviewed: March 6, 2017
Page last updated: March 6, 2017