Shift workers aren’t the only ones losing sleep. Some financial analysts specialize in foreign markets, such as Europe or Asia. Keeping an eye on those markets can require working odd hours because of the time difference. Successful professionals also tend to work long hours. According to the Center for Work-Life Policy (In America), 62% of high earners work more than 50 hours a week, and 10% work more than 80 hours a week.
To protect and serve the public all night and day, many police departments use rotating shifts. This ensures 24-hour coverage without singling out some officers for holidays or the worst hours. But rotating shifts have challenges of their own — it’s impossible to adapt to any one schedule. Alternating between a day shift and a night shift is more problematic than switching between a day shift and an afternoon shift.
Medical students may get used to cramming for exams, but the all-nighters don’t end at graduation. As intermediate-level hospital staff, some residents are allowed to work in-house duty for up to 24 hours in a row. (They must have at least 14 hours free of duty afterward.) Studies show medical interns are twice as likely to crash their cars after a long shift. They’re also more likely to make mistakes in diagnosing patients.
Flying commercial planes deals a triple punch to a good night’s sleep. Pilots face irregular hours, long shifts, and jet lag as they travel through multiple time zones. To avoid pilot fatigue, the FAA observes strict guidelines on flight time and rest time. In the 24 hours before completing a flight, pilots must have at least eight hours of uninterrupted rest.
There is one job that is legendary in its ability to wreck your sleep: parent. When a newborn wakes up every couple of hours, it’s difficult for parents to get a solid stretch of deep sleep. One study found new moms sleep about seven hours over the course of a night, but the sleep is fragmented and not refreshing. Luckily, the situation usually improves by the time baby is 16 weeks old.
Truck drivers have long taken to the road at night, both to avoid daytime traffic and to manage tight delivery schedules. But this is one job where the consequences of poor sleep are well-documented. Roadway crashes are the top cause of work-related deaths in the United States, and drowsy driving is often a factor.
With many bars open until at least 2 a.m. and around the clock in some cities, a bartender may end up working almost through the night. Some people are drawn to this type of schedule because they are “night owls” — they are naturally more alert at night. The key to fully adapting to this shift is to keep the same schedule on your days off. But if you’re a “lark,” you may never adapt.