U.S. workers toil longer, sleep less, study finds

Trend poses safety risks, prevents social activities

March 28, 2001|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON - Americans are getting fewer hours of sleep and spending more time at work, resulting in a fatigued society that has less time to devote to family, social activities and sex, a study released yesterday reported.

The average American gets less than the recommended eight hours of sleep per night, often resulting in drowsiness at work and behind the wheel, according to the annual poll by the National Sleep Foundation.

"Far too many adults still sacrifice sleep, which is unhealthy and counterproductive," said Richard Gelula, the foundation's executive director. "A good night's sleep is a necessity, not a luxury."

Fifty-three percent of 1,004 adults surveyed admitted that they "drive drowsy," while 19 percent have actually fallen asleep driving. About 100,000 automobile accidents occur each year as a result of driving while drowsy, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates.

Job performance is sacrificed as well: Forty percent of those surveyed say they get sleepy on the job and their work suffers at least a few days each month, while 20 percent have trouble just staying awake at work.

"People may be getting enough sleep, but it is [being made up] at school, at work and behind the wheel," said foundation vice president James C. Walsh.

Americans work longer hours than people in any other nation, according to the International Labour Organization, a United Nations agency. As a result, more than 40 percent of adults say they work more and sleep less than they did five years ago.

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