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Study: Long daily commutes can increase risk of sleep disorders

Sleeping commuters
Commuters on the Long Island Railroad try to catch up on lost sleep  

October 29, 1999
Web posted at: 3:30 a.m. EDT (0730 GMT)

From Correspondent Dr. Steve Salvatore

NEW YORK (CNN) -- If it takes you more than an hour and 15 minutes to travel to your job, you may be putting yourself at greater risk of suffering from sleep disorders, according to a new study.

Every morning, Monday through Friday, workers climb aboard the Long Island Railroad and try to catch up on lost sleep on their way to New York City.

"There's some hint there that perhaps the stresses of the commute are beginning to add up for them," said Dr. Joyce Walsleben, director of the New York University Sleep Disorder Center.

That's a problem not only for those snoozing travelers, but for anyone with a long commute. And the stress can lead to other illnesses.

"Any time we nap in a noisy environment, our level of sleep is different," said Walsleben. "Those with long commutes -- which we figured in as about 75 minutes or longer -- seemed to be more obese and they seemed to have more hypertension, irrespective of their obesity."

 VIDEO
VideoCNN's Dr. Steve Salvatore reports on the study linking sleep disorders and commuting to work.
Windows Media 28K 80K
 

Walsleben said in her study that compared to the general population, commuters tend to have more sleep disorders.

"This population, (on) the railroad, had more than 50 percent of folks saying they had something wrong, and that they were sleepy. and that's a little bit excessive," said Walsleben.

Many people with sleep disorders don't seek out professional help. Experts say it could be that the sleep deprived just don't know they have a problem and that think their sleep habits are normal.

Others may think that sleep deprivation is just part of the price they pay for commuting.

And though more than half of all Americans have trouble sleeping at one time or another, few go to their doctor specifically to treat the problem.

And if they do desire help, it can also be difficult to find a doctor who understands sleep disorders because most medical schools don't offer courses on sleep.



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