Study Objectives: We addressed the issue of how commuting affects sleep habits, and its association with general health and potential sleep disorders in individuals on a large, U.S. commuter rail system.
Design: Postage-paid mail back questionnaires were distributed to commuters over 6 consecutive weekdays. The questionnaire incorporated previously validated questions regarding sleep habits.
Setting: Questionnaires were dispensed at 15 different rail stations.
Participants: 21,000 commuters accepted the questionnaire.
Measurements & Results: Data was analyzed by total group and length of commute. A total of 4715 (22%) questionnaires were returned. Over 50% of the sample reported difficulty with sleep and wakefulness while only 3% sought professional help. Sleep apnea was suspected in 4.2% of male and 1% of female respondents and was associated with increased reports of excessive daytime sleepiness, and history of hypertension, diabetes and obesity. Total nocturnal sleep time was significantly less in those subjects with long commutes. Seventy percent of respondents reported napping during the commute. Length of commute was associated with hypertension.
Conclusion: Commuting long distances negatively impacts one's ability to capture adequate sleep. Data suggests that there may be significant numbers of respondents with unrecognized sleep disorders which further impact on general health.