News Brief
June 3, 2013

Higher-activity Jobs Tied to Sleep Extremes, According to Penn Medicine Study

Certain Careers Lead to Both Lower and Higher Sleep Duration, Potentially Creating or Exacerbating Health Problems

PHILADELPHIA — A study from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania has found that people who work in jobs that are more physically demanding tend to be either shorter sleepers (fewer than 6 hours a night) or longer sleepers (longer than 9 hours).

Since previous research has shown that people who report short or long sleep are more likely to have worse health over time, such as weight gain, heart disease and diabetes, the new study suggests that people's jobs may predispose them to unhealthy sleep patterns that could detrimentally affect their health. The findings go against the concept that physical activity in general seems to be healthy, and physical activity tends to be good for sleep.

Penn researchers examined sleep patterns and job classifications of over 17,000 study participants. Job activity was classified as low (mostly sitting or standing), moderate (mostly walking), or high (mostly manual labor). Compared to those in low activity jobs, those working moderate activity jobs, such as postal service employees, were more likely to be short sleepers and long sleepers, and those working high-activity jobs, such as construction workers, were more likely to be short sleepers.

According to the research team, possible explanations for the findings include: 1) the higher demands of the job require longer hours, not allowing for a full night of sleep; 2) job-related stress is keeping people up at night; and 3) the physical demands of the job are causing persons to stay awake.

The research team includes Holly E. Barilla, Charles Corbitt, Subhajit Chakravorty, Michael Perlis, PhD, and Michael Grandner, PhD.

The study is scheduled to be presented June 3 at SLEEP 2013, the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies in Baltimore.

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Penn Medicine is one of the world's leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. Penn Medicine consists of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (founded in 1765 as the nation's first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which together form a $4.3 billion enterprise.

The Perelman School of Medicine has been ranked among the top five medical schools in the United States for the past 17 years, according to U.S. News & World Report's survey of research-oriented medical schools. The School is consistently among the nation's top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $392 million awarded in the 2013 fiscal year.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System's patient care facilities include: The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania -- recognized as one of the nation's top "Honor Roll" hospitals by U.S. News & World Report; Penn Presbyterian Medical Center; Chester County Hospital; Penn Wissahickon Hospice; and Pennsylvania Hospital -- the nation's first hospital, founded in 1751. Additional affiliated inpatient care facilities and services throughout the Philadelphia region include Chestnut Hill Hospital and Good Shepherd Penn Partners, a partnership between Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network and Penn Medicine.

Penn Medicine is committed to improving lives and health through a variety of community-based programs and activities. In fiscal year 2013, Penn Medicine provided $814 million to benefit our community.

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