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How Your Work Schedule Impacts Sleep Quality

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by Startacus Admin

The words, “burning the midnight oil” take on a whole new meaning for entrepreneurs. Those involved in building a business from the ground up often give up many things. In many cases, a good night’s sleep is one thing we are willing to sacrifice. We often think that if we can work a few more hours before bed, we will be more productive, and ultimately, more successful. However, consistent sleep loss can leave us unmotivated and unfocused—leading to less productivity at work. 

As it turns out, workers in several industries are losing sleep. A recent article from Sleep Junkie investigates the link between our sleep habits and occupation. Using the US CDC’s National Health Interview Survey results, they shed light on how our jobs can impact our sleep schedules and mental health.  

Although survey participants reside in the US, many UK workers also struggle with maintaining a consistent sleep schedule because of their jobs. Read on to find out how workers in your industry are sleeping. 

Sleep Schedule

According to Sleep Junkie, workers who reported getting below the recommended 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night include firefighters, nurses, healthcare professionals, law enforcement, and transportation workers. Unfortunately, this is not a surprising statistic. Professionals in each of these groups frequently work odd and unpredictable hours. First responders, healthcare workers, and law enforcement officials have to stay on-call, which can make their sleep schedules inconsistent. Transportation workers may work graveyard shifts that force them to rest during the day and work at night. 

When we sleep in short, inconsistent stretches of time, our internal clock becomes out of sync with our circadian rhythm. When this happens, we often experience a hormonal imbalance because our melatonin, human growth hormone (HGH), cortisol, and adrenaline production becomes erratic. Without adequate sleep to regulate these hormones, it can become even more challenging to find proper rest—creating a vicious cycle of sleep deprivation and stress, among other concerns. 

What is even more alarming is that many of these workers are responsible for public health and safety. When we are sleep deprived, we are more likely to make careless mistakes that put our lives and the lives of others in danger. Research shows that productivity and safety decline after just two sequential late-night shifts. 

Sleep Junkie also found that workers who were more likely to get a full 7 hours of sleep per night were those whose sleep schedules were closely linked to the rising and setting of the sun. These workers include construction, agricultural, and groundskeeping workers. 

When our sleep schedules sync with our circadian rhythm, melatonin levels (the sleep hormone) remain consistent, making it easier for us to relax and experience deeper, more restful sleep. This is because melatonin production is affected by light. During the day when we are exposed to sunlight, melatonin levels remain low—keeping us alert and focused. During the night when light exposure is low, melatonin increases, and we can relax and find the sleep we need. Those who work in conjunction with this cycle and are exposed to more sunlight during the day naturally experience a better quality of sleep because their hormone production is consistent. 

Mental Health

This survey also highlights the link between sleep and mental health. Workers who reported getting less than the recommended amount of sleep revealed that they frequently experienced feelings of hopelessness, anxiety, and depression. Of course, these feelings could be the result of issues other than inadequate sleep. However, there is a close relationship between sleep and our ability to maintain a positive outlook and manage stress and anxiety. 

Just like consistent sleep helps regulate melatonin production, it also helps regulate cortisol and adrenaline—both of which are associated with high-stress levels. When our sleep-wake cycle becomes disrupted, we may experience an influx of cortisol (the stress hormone), which can elevate anxiety levels. A cortisol imbalance can also make it difficult for us to manage our emotions, which can cause us to overreact to both positive and negative emotions. When we are sleep deprived, we often become frustrated, sad, or irritable quickly—making it harder for us to handle stressful situations. 


We may not always be able to choose our sleep schedule—many of us are at the mercy of our jobs. However, because sleep deprivation is closely linked to low productivity and poor mental health, it is vital that we do what we can to maintain a consistent sleep schedule. Those working in industries that require odd work hours must be even more diligent to ensure they find proper rest. 


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Published on: 29th July 2020

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