Working More/Sleeping Less

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Takacs: The hardest day is the last day because I'm so tired. I'm out at the end of the day. I'm so tired. I'm in bed by seven o'clock because I'm so tired.
Registered nurse Linda Takacs is not alone. According to research done by the Family and Work Institute, 75% of the work force reports feeling "used up" at the end of the workday. If you were the worrying kind, it would be something that Dr. Kingman would be worrying about. Dr. Strohl is the professor of medicine at Case Western Reserve University and Director of the Sleep Disorder Lab at Veterans Administration Hospital. He said we all need 7-8 hours of sleep per night. But most people only plan to sleep 6 - 6 1/2 hours.
Strohl: And they think that it's a trivial difference. Scientists have now shown that sleep debt, that is your need for sleep, can build up over time. So one half hour less per night, over a four day period is now two hours less of sleep.
Sleep debt has been linked to diabetes and the weakening of the immune system. There is also evidence that staying up late nights can be linked to breast cancer and other kinds of cancer, and new research at the University of Chicago says sleep loss is involved in the epidemic of obesity. We don't need mom to tell us anymore. We know we need sleep. So what's keeping us up? 20% of Americans have chronic sleep disorders. But others say that they can't help but stay up late to earn a living. And the e-mails, cell phones, and pagers of the 24-hour society keep calling out to us, wherever and whenever. Database manager Onda Wolf is on-call most weekends.
Wolf: One weekend, I had probably four hours of sleep. I kept getting paged and every time I went back to sleep, the pager went off again.
The espresso machine at this coffee place in Shaker Heights works extra hard because its patrons do. Coffee houses are now an $18.5 billion industry in the United States. Direct cost of the industry is estimated to be as high as $15 billion a year. But working so hard that we sleep so little that we mess up at work is only one of the bitter ironies of the driven, but drowsy workforce. Another irony is that we are sleeping too little to be mentally healthy enough to be able to appreciate the fruits of our labors. Cleveland native, Dr. Hellerstein is the clinical director of the New York Psychiatric Institute.
Dr. Hellerstein: The frequency of depression has been greatly increasing over the past 40-50 years. And it is thought that sleep deprivation is maybe a factor in accounting for this.
Bill Clinton, Bob Dole and Al Gore all boasted about campaigning without sleep. Doctors themselves set a bad example.
Dr. Hellerstein: And I think that mythology has grown up that if you can do it under extreme circumstances, if you endure sleep deprivation, somehow, this will make you a better doctor.
How do you stay up at night might be a better question for Dr. Dickinson, 2nd year resident, at Veterans Hospital. Every third night she is on 24-hour call.
Dr. Dickinson: You are busy and you keep going. You think about things and you are up and moving around. It's usually that once you get home that you kind of crash out.
Cardiologist -- Dr. Florence Rothenberg agrees that sleepy doctors only hurt themselves.
Dr. Rothenberg: I think the care of the patient is not necessarily compromised, but when you go home, that's another story. You rarely get to take care of yourself.

Goodman: Well, how do you maintain your own health?

Dr. Rothenberg: That's a good point. I think we rarely do take very good care of ourselves and I think it's a shame. In a profession where we are expected to show compassion to our patients -- we can't be compassionate to ourselves.

Overwhelmed nurses accidentally kill or injure thousands of patients ever year. According to a recent Chicago Tribune exposé. Yet many states have rejected bans on mandatory overtime in hospitals. New Jersey's governor vetoed the bill last year because it didn't prevent voluntary overtime. Dr. Roger Macklis says most healthcare workers don't mind what they do.
Dr. Macklis: They are turned on by what they do, but the other side of the question is -- how can they expect everyone to have that level of energy? The answer is that we can't.
Dr. Macklis oversees a clinical venture in the errors of medicine intervention. He points to a recent Boston study that shows that it's not too much work and too little sleep that is causing the medical errors...
Dr. Macklis: The data say that somehow people are able to suck it up and do what needs to be done despite the stress and workload as long as the system is well designed.
Nurse Linda Takacs doesn't worry about making mistakes on the job, but she does worry about the ride home after working 12 hours a night...
Linda: There have been times that I've put the window down or something. I'd be like, "Oh my gosh. Am I safe?"
She's right to worry. New research on shift workers, people working evening hours -- 15 million Americans, have a reaction time that is 50% slower than people on alcohol. Sleepiness is a factor in 2/3 of U.S. road accidents. And in a recent murder case in Nevada, a young woman claims she plowed into a group of teenagers picking up trash along the highway because she fell asleep at the wheel after 24 hours of being awake. The department of transportation estimates that 755 fatalities a year are due to drowsy driving truck drivers. They can now legally work 70 hours or 8 days -- although the department is proposing more rest breaks. Some companies are waking up to the need for rested employees. Progressive Insurance Customer Service Supervisor, Kathleen Burman works four ten-hour days. She's allowed to catch a break when she can in a special quiet room.
Kathleen: When everything is feeling a little overwhelming -- there's no noise. No one can eat or drink here. That is nice. There's no stimulus. It's just peace and quiet. That is what I love about this room.
Workplace napping may be one way to re-energize. At Kent State's circadian rhythm lab, Dr. David Glass' hamsters may show us another way. The focus of his research is saratonin.
Dr. Glass: We have found in our work with hamsters and also primates that saratonin has a pronounced resetting or shifting effect on the biological clock.
Dr. Glass' research could prove beneficial to doctors, pilots, truckers and others who have to stay alert with little sleep. But sleep expert Dr. Strohl says the ultimate solution for a society that is choosing to sleep 20% less than a century ago is just a wake-up to the need for sleep.
Strohl: Where is the relative value for the need for sleep on your healthy behavior list? Is it on the list at all?
I'm Vivian Goodman, WKSU News.
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