- Reinhard Krause/Reuters
The psychological and social dynamics of a stressful job can lead to prolonged sleep problems, a new study found.
A team of scientists from the National Institute of Occupational Health in Norway analyzed more than 5,000 workers from 63 different companies.
They determined that four key factors – heavy workload, lack of decision control, role conflict and little support from superiors – can cause a person to have difficulty falling, or staying, asleep.
Those same sleep problems were still evident two years later, indicating long-term consequences, the scientists wrote in the journal SLEEP.
Over time, sleep issues can lead to serious health problems, such as headaches, impaired speech, and even heart disease.
The study set out to determine if specific workplace factors could play a role in workers’ sleep.
Participants completed web-based questionnaires, with questions about 13 psychological and social work factors, including predictability during the next month, empowering leadership, positive challenges, control of work pacing and more.
They were also asked how many times in the past four weeks they had experienced “difficulties falling asleep” and “disturbed sleep.”
The factors determined to play the largest role in worker sleep problems included quantitative job demands – which is an employee’s perception of workload and time available to complete necessary tasks – as well as whether they have freedom to control decisions about how their job is done.
Furthermore, the clash between the worker’s expectation of the position and the actual role, as well as whether or not they receive support from superiors, were also linked to the highest risk of sleep problems.
Other factors that could lead to troubled sleep included commitment to the organization, decision demands, fair leadership, social climate and more.
The results support a common theory called Demand-Control-(Support) Model, which proposes that a combination of high job demands and low job control can cause negative health effects, the scientists concluded.
Workers who are stressed – and therefore don’t get enough sleep – are more likely to be less productive and take more sick days. The study suggested that employers should create programs that target- and ultimately modify – stressful work situations.