DAVID GREENE, HOST:
Every year, the number of Americans who don't get enough sleep goes up. According to a new study, one-third of working adults are sleep deprived. NPR's Patti Neighmond has more.
PATTI NEIGHMOND, BYLINE: The people hardest hit when it comes to not getting enough sleep are those we depend on the most for our health and safety.
JAGDISH KHUBCHANDANI: Protection services, police officers, health care occupations, nurses and doctors.
NEIGHMOND: Jagdish Khubchandani headed the study. He's a professor of health science at Ball State University in Indiana. He analyzed federal health data of more than 150,000 adults who worked in different occupations. Nearly half of police officers and health care workers got less than seven hours sleep a night. For some, it was only five or six hours. Khubchandani says one of the main reasons for lack of sleep is likely stress.
Take Detective John Foster, who's been with the Ball State University Police Department for 25 years. He's seen some of the worst things a person can imagine, and at night, he says, it can be hard to sleep.
JOHN FOSTER: It just replays in your mind, over and over. And I don't think there is any way for me to ever forget some of the things that I have seen.
NEIGHMOND: Tragedies like suicide and emotional interactions with victims of crime.
FOSTER: Just the way that someone has made me feel at a scene, just saddened for them or maybe something said where maybe I thought I could have done something a little better to help somebody.
NEIGHMOND: Even in less stressful jobs, clinical psychologist Todd Arnedt with The University of Michigan says worry takes a big toll on sleep.
TODD ARNEDT: Probably the most common thing I hear from people is, I'm not able to shut my mind down at night. My mind is running about what I've got to do the next day, job-related stress or a job-related deadline I have to do, or I'm worried about my kids.
NEIGHMOND: And Arnedt says many of his patients just don't devote enough time to sleep.
ARNEDT: They're sort of burning the candle at both ends, as the saying goes.
NEIGHMOND: For a variety of reasons - long working hours and extracurricular activities.
ARNEDT: We're a very engaged 24-hour society, and one of the first activities that gets curtailed is our sleep.
NEIGHMOND: Another contributor to poor sleep, says researcher Khubchandani, is technology - 24/7.
KHUBCHANDANI: Social media, negative news - your mind is in a state of activity, constant activity. And you are almost, like, addicted to more info, which does not allow your mind to rest and sleep.
NEIGHMOND: Optimal sleep ranges between seven and nine hours a night; less than that puts people at increased risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke, as well as anxiety, unstable moods and even thoughts of suicide. Psychologist Arnedt says people can learn strategies to help them get to sleep and stay asleep. These days, Detective Foster does several things that help.
FOSTER: Make sure I get plenty of exercise, make sure that I am eating a plant-based diet, a pretty clean diet. I limit my caffeine intake. And I'm mindful of the blue lights and the electronics right before I go to bed.
NEIGHMOND: Now most nights Foster gets seven hours of sleep; on a good night, 8 1/2.
Patti Neighmond, NPR News.