Rich People Sleep More, Poor People Barely Sleep At All

September 19, 2014 | Sophie Weiner

For all the media’s coverage of tech people who work 100 hours a week and high-powered executives who brag about working 24/7, it’s pretty overblown. It should come as no surprise that poor people actually get much less sleep on average than those in higher income brackets.

Working multiple jobs, irregular schedules and lack of personal transportation are only a few of the factors to blame for the sleep deprivation among the poor. According to a new Gallup poll, “about half of people in households making less than $30,000 sleep six or fewer hours per night, while only a third of those making $75,000 or more do.”

In one study, researchers had mice imitate the schedules of shift workers: The rodents’ brain cells began dying off after just days, and the loss was permanent. A later study on 147 adult humans found that the sleep deprived among them had actively shrinking brains. This suggests that no amount of “catch up” sleep can ever reverse the effects of sleep loss on the body.

The situation is bleak for those who can’t get enough sleep. Not only are their brains and bodies at risk of illness and injury, if they do have a car, they’re much more likely to get in an accident that could kill them or others. “Drowsy driving” kills as many or more people than drunk driving does.

Working two jobs — often both as full time — is not a choice, but a necessity for those making minimum wage. Working 40 hours a week for minimum wage brings in $1,386 a month, “less than half of the current median average rent in Brooklyn.” And when you’re toiling 80 hours a week, without the luxury of a driver, a cook, a cleaner, a nanny or any of the other privileges of the rich, there is precious little time for rest. (Photo: Nisarg Lakhmani)