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These are the most sleep-deprived professions

  • These are the most sleep-deprived professions

    Studies vary on how many hours per sleep we need per day, but the magic number usually hovers around seven. Adults who sleep less than seven hours per day could be susceptible to a wide range of health afflictions including heart disease, depression, and obesity.

    Some of the world’s most influential names, from Tim Cook to Michelle Obama, have claimed to rise at or before 4 a.m. each day. For other professionals, the requirements of the job mean long hours working late into the night and following morning. Doctors, farmers, firefighters, and even bookies are taxed with arduous work schedules that easily lead to sleep deprivation. These and other jobs also come with high levels of stress, which can also lead to sleepless nights.

    Slumber Yard compiled a list of the jobs where employees encounter the most sleep deprivation. Jobs are ranked by percent of employees with less than seven hours of sleep adjusted to account for sex, race/ethnicity, marital status, age group, and education level. Ties are broken by the smallest confidence interval. Data is from a 2013–2014 study by the CDC, in which 36.5% of all occupation groups averaged under seven hours of sleep.

    Some industries have laws to make sure their employees are not overworked (and hopefully are getting enough shut-eye). For example, air traffic controllers and firefighters have mandates that ensure they don’t work more than a certain number of hours in a row. Also, agricultural workers have rights to certain pay standards to offset their taxing workdays.

    The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a light on the tough, long hours that many medical professionals, caregivers, and other essential workers experience on a daily basis, with some calling for better wages and more mental health access for these workers in the future.

    Read on to see if you have one of the most sleep-deprived professions, and perhaps what can be done to help alleviate your workplace tension.


  • #22. Farming, fishing, and forestry

    - Workers with under 7 hours of sleep: 31.3%
    - 95% confidence interval: 25.0%–38.4%
    - Occupations most sleep-deprived:
    --- #1. Fishing and hunting workers: 36.6%
    --- #2. Agricultural workers: 30.2%

    Workers in the fishing and hunting industry must adapt to extreme weather events and fluctuating temperatures, exceedingly long shifts, and inherent dangers of being out on the water or in the wilderness. Many agricultural workers wake up before the sun rises to begin long hours of manual labor, and there are laws to ensure proper pay standards for their hectic work schedules.

  • #21. Education, training, and library

    - Workers with under 7 hours of sleep: 31.3%
    - 95% confidence interval: 29.2%–33.4%
    - Occupations most sleep-deprived:
    --- #1 (tied). Primary, secondary, and special education school workers: 32.5%
    --- #1 (tied). Other education, training, and library occupations: 32.5%
    --- #3. Librarians, curators, and archivists: 30.3%

    U.S. teachers work an average of 46 hours per week—one of the highest rates in the world, according to a 2019 survey by the National Center for Education Statistics. Among those surveyed, only 36% said their profession felt valued by society. Librarians often encounter burnout from their jobs, and some report stress from interactions with people dealing with traumatic circumstances themselves, from poverty to health emergencies.

  • #20. Community and social services

    - Workers with under 7 hours of sleep: 32.2%
    - 95% confidence interval: 27.7%–37.1%
    - Occupations most sleep-deprived:
    --- #1. Counselors, social workers, and other community and social service specialists: 34.0%
    --- #2. Religious workers: 22.4%

    Social workers have one of the highest rates of injury and illness of all occupations, according to the BLS. This likely is attributed to the high levels of stress associated with the job. Social workers also routinely have to contend with increased caseloads with diminishing resources available.

  • #19. Life, physical, and social science

    - Workers with under 7 hours of sleep: 33.6%
    - 95% confidence interval: 29.7%–37.7%
    - Occupations most sleep-deprived:
    --- #1. Life, physical, and social science technicians: 41.8%
    --- #2. Physical scientists: 32.4%
    --- #3. Social scientists and related workers: 32.3%

    These scientists can work extensive hours researching in the lab or teaching in the classroom, leading to many hours of work even at home. Ironically, it’s workers in this field who have conducted studies indicating that humans can actually work themselves to death.

  • #18. Computer and mathematical

    - Workers with under 7 hours of sleep: 33.8%
    - 95% confidence interval: 31.1%–36.7%
    - Occupations most sleep-deprived:
    --- #1. Mathematical science occupations: 38.1%
    --- #2. Computer specialists: 33.6%

    Mathematicians often have to work on tight deadlines; it’s not uncommon to become besieged with last-minute requests for data or analysis. Frequent travel to seminars and conferences is also not out of the norm, resulting in a work schedule that often fluctuates.


  • #17. Architecture and engineering

    - Workers with under 7 hours of sleep: 34.3%
    - 95% confidence interval: 31.0%–37.9%
    - Occupations most sleep-deprived:
    --- #1. Drafters, engineering, and mapping technicians: 40.5%
    --- #2. Architects, surveyors, and cartographers: 36.2%
    --- #3. Engineers: 32.2%

    For some architects, 40-hour workweeks are the minimum and come with no overtime pay. Even before entering the field, some architecture students, stressed by the demands of the industry, contemplated suicide, according to a 2019 report by Dezeen, an architecture and design magazine.

  • #16. Sales and related

    - Workers with under 7 hours of sleep: 34.4%
    - 95% confidence interval: 32.6%–36.3%
    - Occupations most sleep-deprived:
    --- #1. Supervisors, sales workers: 36.0%
    --- #2. Sales representatives, services: 35.4%
    --- #3. Retail sales workers: 34.4%

    Essential workers in retail have been spotlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic, but these hard-working laborers are often underpaid and overworked. Long work hours, holiday workdays, plus arriving early and staying late to assist with stocking and cleanup all cut into sleep hours for those enlisted in sales and related industries.

  • #15. Legal

    - Workers with under 7 hours of sleep: 34.5%
    - 95% confidence interval: 30.6%–38.5%
    - Occupations most sleep-deprived:
    --- #1. Legal support workers: 37.5%
    --- #2. Lawyers, judges, and related workers: 32.9%

    An old television drama trope is showing a judge or lawyer cramped in their office past sundown, surrounded by scattered papers and perhaps a glass of scotch nearby. But legal workers are indeed some of the most frequent burners of the midnight oil. The New York Times reported in 2019 that public defenders in particular were overworked, with some taking on 194 active cases.

  • #14. Construction and extraction

    - Workers with under 7 hours of sleep: 34.5%
    - 95% confidence interval: 32.2%–36.9%
    - Occupations most sleep-deprived:
    --- #1. Extraction workers: 45.3%
    --- #2. Construction trades workers: 34.6%
    --- #3. Other construction and related workers: 34.5%

    Construction and extraction workers often log long hours (overnight and early in the morning) in a field that is extremely physically demanding. The heightened incidence of injury and illness on the job could also lead to sleep deprivation. The pressure to meet deadlines adds to stress on the job, too. 

  • #13. Management

    - Workers with under 7 hours of sleep: 35.4%
    - 95% confidence interval: 33.7%–37.2%
    - Occupations most sleep-deprived:
    --- #1. Chief, executives; general and operations managers; legislators: 36.3%
    --- #2. Operations specialties managers: 35.6%
    --- #3. Other management occupations: 35.3%

    Managers may make good salaries, but their hours committed to work often go above and beyond the standard 40-hour work week. Administrative service managers are expected to be on call at all hours to address problems. Emergency management directors often work evenings and weekends in addition to their regular hours while top executives travel frequently on top of their work-week duties.


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