There’s a young woman who works at a gas station where I often stop after clocking out, late at night, and in one respect she is a reminder that I’m lucky. A single mother working two jobs while going to school full-time, she’s very friendly and gracious — reminding me to enroll the kiddo in an after-school program, like the one she works for, before the late summer rush. Honest to everything I don’t know how she does it, but it being midnight and such the topic of sleep often comes up. She once told me that, like myself, she’s fortunate to get five hours of sleep between everything else.
According to Gallup polling from last year we’ve got plenty of company, as nearly half of Americans making less than $30,000 a year sleep less than six hours a night on average. Susannah Locke included this point and chart from a roundup about our national sleep deprivation over at Vox (emphasis in bold mine):
Sleep appears to be functioning as a luxury good. And when time is money, some are having trouble affording it. For those whose household income is less than $30,000, 48 percent are sleeping six hours or less on an average work night. This drops to 34 percent for those making $75,000 or more. There could be many interrelated reasons for this. In addition to simple demands on time, there are also links between poverty, obesity, sleep apnea, and sleep, as well as links between anxiety and sleep.
Resting fewer hours due to health, demands on one’s time, and general stress is hardly a phenomenon unique to any single class, but sleep deprivation is essentially income-regressive. Moreover, for folks like the kind woman I see every few nights, the costs and consequences are much more steep.
Update: A friend on Facebook accurately sums this up: “Sleep is free and folks making under 30k a year still can’t get enough of it. WHAT THE F**K!?!?”