A new study finds once again that Americans get too little sleep. But this study shows something even worse. The very people whose jobs most often put them in life-or-death situations are the same people getting the least sleep.

The researchers say the problem is widespread, and the results of too little sleep are sadly well-known.

Prevalence and recommendations

The study looked at nearly 160,000 working Americans using data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Adults should get seven to nine hours of sleep every night, according to the National Sleep Foundation, but about 50% of police officers, firefighters and other “protective service” workers get less.

That may be surprising enough, but this live-saving group gets the least sleep of any kind of worker.

And about as many (45%) home health, psychiatric aides and nursing assistants also get too little sleep.

Also, the next most poorly rested workers are those who move people and dangerous materials, such as air traffic controllers, truck drivers and railroad workers. With 41% getting too little sleep, their score ties with power-plant operators and quality-control inspectors.

Employers may improve worker and public safety

There are plenty of rules and advice “for these professions to improve worker safety and occupational health,” the study reminds readers. “Employers that are willing to help employees develop adequate sleep times” may also keep health-care costs down and productivity up.

In this and earlier research, the authors point to “progressive escalation in workplace stress” and the common American problems of insecure jobs and harassment as both causes and effects of too little sleep.

Too little sleep is risky in many ways

Earlier studies showed the dangers to workers and the public from too little sleep for law-enforcement and health-care workers.

One found 56% night-shift nurses it studied were sleep-deprived with more than 75% of those sleep-deprived nurses getting 4.7 hours of sleep or less. They had a high rate of patient-care errors.

The authors warn law-enforcement officers are “always living in hyperactivity mode” because they deal with life and death situations and see a lot of bloodshed. Their findings are “disconcerting … because many of these occupations are related to population health, well-being, and safety services.”