Sleep Disorders

07 June 2013

Active jobs tied to unusual amounts of sleep

Study found these workers are often long or short sleepers, which may not be healthy.


People with more physically active jobs tend to be either shorter or longer sleepers than average and could be at increased risk for health problems, according to a new study.

Previous research has shown that people who are short sleepers (fewer than six hours per night) or long sleepers (more than nine hours per night) are more likely to have health issues such as weight gain, heart disease and diabetes.

The findings of this new study from the University of Pennsylvania suggest that jobs with higher levels of physical activity may be linked to unhealthy sleep patterns, according to a university news release.

Researchers looked at the jobs and sleep patterns of more than 17 000 people. Their job activity levels were classified as low (mostly sitting or standing), moderate (mostly walking) or high (mostly manual labour).

Compared to people with low-activity jobs, those with moderate-activity jobs (such as postal workers) were more likely to be short and long sleepers. Those with high-activity jobs (such as construction workers) were more likely to be short sleepers.

The researchers offered some possible explanations for their findings: Higher job demands require longer hours and prevent people from getting a full night of sleep; job-related stress keeps people up at night; and the physical demands of certain jobs cause people to stay awake.

The study was presented Monday at the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies in Baltimore. Data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

More information

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about sleep.

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Dr Alison Bentley is a general practitioner who has consulted in sleep medicine and sleep disorders, in both adults and children of all ages, for almost 30 years. She also researches and publishes on a number of sleep-related topics both in formal research journals and lay publications including as editor of Sleep Matters, an educational newsletter on sleep disorders for doctors.

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