Surprising Sleep Saboteurs

What do your zip code and your employer have to do with how well you sleep? Quite a bit, according to two recent findings. You probably already know that things like pets, children and a snoring spouse can interfere with sleep, but where you live as well as what you do for a living may also be keeping you from getting the recommended seven to nine hours of shuteye a night. Is your home state or profession preventing you from scoring the sound sleep you need? The answers might surprise you.

Sleepy States
If you live in the South, there’s a good chance that you feel sleepy during the day. Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania analyzed data collected from 36 states, and found that those who live in Southern states—including Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama and West Virginia—report the greatest amount of daytime fatigue. People in the West report the least.

“Poor sleep and increased fatigue is more likely in areas with poorer health and lower socioeconomic status. We found that state-by-state differences still existed after adjusting for these factors,” says study author Michael Grandner, Ph.D. “The most likely explanation is that there are some factors that play a role that were not measured—for example, how people react to sleep problems and beliefs and attitudes about the importance of sleep.”

Of course, you’re not likely to pick up and move simply because you live in a sleepy state. The point of the research is to bring about an awareness of the importance of sleep. “Sleep disorders [including sleep apnea] are very common and are linked to an increased risk for serious diseases, like heart disease and diabetes—but they are highly treatable. Even if you don’t have a sleep disorder, if you’re simply not sleeping well, it can take a toll on your body and put you at risk for serious health complications,” Grandner says. “Make time for sleep. And talk to your doctor if you’re having trouble sleeping or are feeling sleepy during the day.”

Weary Workers
It’s no surprise that people who work longer hours and/or have more stressful jobs report feeling more tired, but some of the least well-rested workers in Sleepy’s survey based on government data were eye-opening.

Take a look at their findings below:

Shortest-Sleep Jobs
(starting with shortest sleepers)

Most Well-Rested Professions
(starting with most well-rested)

• Home Health Aides• Lawyers• Police Officers

• Physicians, Paramedics

• Economists

• Social Workers

• Computer Programmers

• Financial Analysts

• Plant Operators

• Secretaries

• Forest, Logging Workers• Hairstylists• Sales Representatives

• Bartenders

• Construction Workers

• Athletes

• Landscapers

• Engineers

• Aircraft Pilots

• Teachers

I talked to 20 Years Younger sleep expert Ronald Kotler, M.D., to get his take on the survey and what the findings mean to you. His advice: “The first thing you should do if you’re having sleep trouble that’s job-related is identify what the issue is.”

He explains, “A lot of people are driven to work too much and sacrifice sleep at a cost—even though sleep deprivation puts you at risk for accidents on the job or on the road, decreases workplace performance, increases the risk of obesity and diabetes, and may even shorten your life. Others are in professions where stress may carry over into the bedroom and keep them up at night.”

Your next step: Finding a solution. If you’re overworked, it may be time to reprioritize. “You may have to reconsider your life and your objectives. Some people work long hours or multiple jobs to make ends meet, but others only do it to acquire material goods. Ask yourself if it’s really worth it, and rethink what excessive work might cost your health. If work stress is interfering with sleep, help is available—relaxation techniques, exercise (if health permits), sleep hygiene measures and/or seeing a therapist to discuss cognitive behavioral therapy.”

Does work interfere with your sleep? How do you manage to squeeze in your seven to nine hours of shuteye a night?

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