Alarm Clock Usage Among Shiftworkers

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If you use an alarm clock to wake up for work, most likely you were not done sleeping. A recent study found that 72.4% of shiftworkers use alarm clocks. The study examined the usage among different demographic groups (gender, age, and assigned shift). It found that more women, younger people, and day and weekend shift workers relied on alarms to wake up.

High alarm clock usage suggests inadequate sleep.

The average person needs 7 to 8 hours of sleep every 24-hour period. Most people (especially shiftworkers) get significantly less than that. Depending upon the shift being worked, a typical shiftworker will get between 5 and 6½ hours of sleep every 24 hours. On a regular basis, they are exchanging sleep for some other activity. Whether it is to stay up late to catch the news or simply to spend extra time with the family, these other activities cut into their valuable sleep time.

According to Jim Dillingham, a partner at Shiftwork Solutions LLC, "When you get a full night's sleep, you will wake up naturally once your body has had enough rest. If you normally use an alarm clock to wake up (as 71.0% of the shiftworkers do), most likely you were not done sleeping. Although high alarm clock usage suggests inadequate sleep, low alarm clock usage does not necessarily imply adequate sleep."

Dan Capshaw, another partner at Shiftwork Solutions, explains "There are people who claim to never use an alarm clock, not because they are getting enough sleep, but because they have an alarm built into their heads. They can wake up, seemingly on cue, without an alarm, regardless of how much sleep they got." There are also people who have their spouse wake them up instead of using an alarm. Still others rely on regular occurring, external events to awaken, such as the sound of their kids coming home from school.

Different demographic groups show different reliance upon alarm clocks, as shown below. For example, female shiftworkers are more likely to use alarm clocks than male shiftworkers.

Alarm Clock Usage by Gender

Female     73.0%
Male         69.8%

Younger shiftworkers rely on alarm clocks more often than older shiftworkers. One possible reason is that younger people tend to have more rigorous demands on their time, so they get less sleep. As a result, they need to use an alarm more often.

Alarm Clock Usage by Age Group

25 and under 70.0%
26 to 30            74.7%
31 to 35            72.8%
36 to 40            71.3%
41 to 45            70.8%
46 to 50            67.2%
51 to 55            70.3%
55 and older     60.3%

Shiftworkers on day and weekend shifts rely on alarm clocks more often than employees on other shifts. One possible reason is that, unlike evening and night shifts, no one else in the household is already awake at that time and there are no external triggers to awaken them.

Alarm Clock Usage by Shift Worked

12-hr days         83.1%
12-hr nights     49.7%
8-hr days         81.6%
8-hr evenings    46.4%
8-hr nights         56.2%
Weekends         91.7%

Shiftwork Solutions maintains a database of over 20,000 shiftworker surveys. It contains information on employee demographics, health and alertness, working conditions, shift schedule features, and overtime. The database was used to compile the figures used in this press release, and is a great resource for benchmarking shiftwork operations.


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Bruce Oliver
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