American workers are struggling to get enough sleep, and the ones who have the most difficulty are responsible for life-and-death decisions. A study published in the Journal of Community Health says police officers and firefighters report getting the least sleep of all groups reviewed.

The study, funded by Merck Laboratories, used data from more than 158,000 working adults who took part in the National Health Interview Survey from 2010 to 2018. The study defined inadequate sleep as anything less than seven hours.

Three groups of workers report short sleep durations

The study found these groups suffer the highest levels of sleep deprivation:

  • Protective service workers – 50%: This includes police, firefighters, correctional officers and military workers
  • Health-care support workers – 45%: Home health aides, psychiatric aides and nursing assistants
  • Transportation and production workers – 41%: Truck drivers, railroad workers, air traffic controllers, quality-control inspectors, power plant workers and food and tobacco processing employees

Other studies link sleep deprivation to safety and performance issues

The Merck study’s author says their findings are particularly disturbing as the most affected groups are related to public safety and the health care industry. A 2014 study in the Journal of Nursing Administration said night-shift nurses who are sleep-deprived made more errors in the care of patients.

A 2011 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found sleep disorders among Canadian and American police officers to be common and led to an increased risk of adverse job performance outcomes as well as risks for their personal health and safety.

Employers play a role in workers’ well-being

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says insufficient sleep often contributes to conditions such as depression, diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease. Researchers say employers play a role in keeping their workers healthy.

Those that encourage and help employees develop healthy sleep patterns see a reduction in health-care costs, improved safety in the workplace and also benefit from increased productivity. If you are injured on the job for any reason, you have rights. A compassionate and experienced workers’ compensation attorney here in California can help you get the benefits you deserve.