How about instead of hacking our way to a better night’s sleep we just start the work day later? That’s the idea researchers are proposing in their new study for the journal Sleep.

Researchers analyzed the sleep and work habits of 124,517 American adults who participated in the American Time Use Surveys from 2003 to 2011. Compared to normal sleepers, short sleepers (six hours or less) worked 1.55 more hours on weekdays and 1.86 more hours on weekends or holidays, while also starting work earlier in the morning and stopping work later at night. Short sleepers also traveled more and earlier in the morning and later in the evening than normal sleepers. In other words, a lot of short sleepers are also commuters.

What’s interesting is Mathias Basner, lead author and assistant professor of sleep and chronobiology in psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, and his team also found with every hour that work or educational training starts later in the morning, sleep time increases by approximately 20 minutes. So, starting work before or at 6 a.m. averaged out to six hours of sleep, while starting work between 9 and 10 a.m. averaged out to over seven hours of sleep. This all boils down to the fact Americans are still sacrificing sleep for their job.

“The evidence that time spent working was the most prominent sleep thief was overwhelming,” Basner said in a press release.

Start time hasn’t been the only aspect of the average work day that’s been called into question. Earlier this year, experts listed the health impacts a four (as opposed to five) work week has, including fewer illnesses, less time in the car and carbon emissions (commuting is ruining us anyway), plus a boost in productivity. Carlos Slim, the world’s richest man, went so far as to say a three day work week is what Americans need for a better life.

It’s like we said, sleep is so hot right now. There’s never been a greater emphasis on the importance of getting a quality night’s sleep — about seven to nine hours per night, as recommend by the American Academy of Sleep. And maybe it’s time we share the responsibility. Maybe it’s not up to us to set and keep a sleep schedule, turn our phones off before 9 p.m., and sleep in certain positions. We absolutely should consider these tips for better sleep, of course, but it might be time for society as a whole to consider the ways they can break the mold and get some sleep, too.

Source: Basner M, Spaeth A, Dinges D. Sociodemographic Characteristics and Waking Activities and their Role in the Timing and Duration of Sleep. Sleep. 2014.

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