Researchers were surprised by their own findings.

Many people can relate to that feeling of getting home from the office later than normal and getting to bed behind schedule because of it. And whose alarm has never gone off before you may have wanted it to on a workday? But some jobs are especially, consistently bad for your sleep ― like anything that requires you to work the night shift, which may raise risk of on-the-job injuries, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, memory problems and even some cancers.

Where does your job rank? In a report released earlier this month, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention measured for the first time which occupations are most likely to get at least the minimum seven hours of sleep per night that the American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends ― and which professions are least likely to meet that bar.

Telephone operators have it worst

Switchboard and telephone operators are least likely to get the recommended minimum seven hours of sleep compared to other professions, according to the CDC.

This came as a surprise to the researchers, and demonstrates why it’s so important to look at how our jobs affect sleep, report author Taylor Shockey, a fellow at the CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, told The Huffington Post.

So many of the choices we make because of work affect our health. But when it comes to measuring health ― and particularly occupational health ― sleep is often overlooked, Shockey explained. Yet “the type of work a person does and their sleep duration are significantly [linked],” she said.

To come up with the rankings, the CDC analyzed survey responses from 179,621 workers in 29 states who reported how much sleep they typically got in a 24-hour period. The researchers organized the survey respondents into 22 broad occupational categories, and then broke those down further into 93 more specific groups.

“Switchboard and telephone operators” make up one of the more specific professional groups from the list of 93 (“communications equipment operators”).

This chart shows the 10 occupations with the highest and the 10 occupations with the lowest prevalences of workers who reported not getting at least seven hours of sleep a night. See how the other 73 occupations ranked in the full CDC report.
Alissa Scheller
This chart shows the 10 occupations with the highest and the 10 occupations with the lowest prevalences of workers who reported not getting at least seven hours of sleep a night. See how the other 73 occupations ranked in the full CDC report.

Bad sleep hurts employers’ bottom lines, too

This data shows that what you do for a living and how long you sleep are related, Shockey said. And that’s important because not getting enough sleep is associated with multiple negative health outcomes. In the short term, a lack of adequate sleep can make you more irritable, less focused and more at risk of accidents. In the longer term, it can put you at higher risk of heart disease, obesity, anxiety and depression.

And it doesn’t only hurt individuals ― it hurts businesses and our economy overall, too. Research has found that workers not getting enough sleep costs the U.S. economy up to $411 billion a year, and results in approximately 1.2 million days of lost work.

Shockey said it was surprising how widely the percentage of short sleepers varied from occupation to occupation. Among the 22 larger groups, 42.9 percent of production workers reported not clocking seven or more hours of sleep per night, compared with only 31.3 percent of farming, fishing and forestry workers.

And among the 93 more specific categories, 58.2 percent of communication equipment operators reported not getting sufficient sleep, compared with only 21.4 percent of air transportation workers.

Some seemingly similar professions had very different sleep habits, Shockey noted. Air transportation workers were most likely to report getting enough sleep, while rail transportation workers were among the least likely, with 52.7 percent saying they didn’t get seven hours of sleep per night. That probably has something to do with policy: The Federal Aviation Administration requires that pilots are given a 10-hour minimum rest period before flight duty, a protection that rail workers don’t have, Shockey said.

“Being able to drill down further into the broader occupation groups can reveal new areas where more research is needed,” Shockey said ― and can show where there’s room for more resources and stronger employee protections.

This reporting is brought to you by HuffPost’s health and science platform, The Scope. Like us on Facebook and Twitter and tell us your story:

Sarah DiGiulio is The Huffington Post’s sleep reporter. You can contact her at

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