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Stress at work causing you to sleep poorly? A new study suggests that this could be because of a lack support from colleagues and supervisors.
According to the study, receiving better psychological and social support in the workplace allows you to shut off more easily from your workday. This gives you valuable downtime to de-stress or improve sleep.
Phyllis Zee is the chief of sleep medicine for Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago. Zee did not take part in the study.
Zee explained that initiatives to improve workplace well-being can improve sleep. But at an individual level, we can optimize our sleep quality, which can in turn help us to manage stress and increase resilience in daily challenges.
Leadership is important
The study was published in JAMA Network Open on Tuesday. It analyzed data from nearly 115,000 participants in three studies: the Work Environment and Health in Denmark Study and the Finnish Public Sector Study. Participants were tracked for up to 6 years.
Researchers examined top-down resources – leadership qualities such as appreciation, the ability to listen and procedural fairness, or the perception of fairness at work – and horizontal resources such as coworker support and a collaborative workplace culture. Collaboration is defined as working with others in order to achieve the best results possible or to develop and apply new ideas.
The sleep problems were defined as difficulty initiating or maintaining a sleep cycle, sleep of poor quality and fatigue during the day two to four days a week for 1-2 months. The study excluded confounding factors such as age, preexisting mental or physical disorders and other variables.
Over half (53%) of participants reported that their work environment had changed within a period of two years. The odds of having persistent sleep issues decreased if changes were positive for either category -- leadership and fairness, or coworker collaboration and support. When all four workplace areas improved, the biggest drop in sleep problems occurred.
If the changes were negative at work, then sleep problems increased. In fact, 1 in 4 participants in the study who had a poorer job environment experienced difficulty getting enough rest.
Our findings warrant future intervention studies that examine the extent to improve workplace psychosocial resources can facilitate remission from sleep disturbances or recovery and prevent development or deterioration of sleep disorders among employees.' This was written by TianweiXu, an epidemiology postdoctoral at Stockholm University, Sweden.
The study found that negative changes to coworker relations or collaboration had a greater impact on sleep than leadership and fairness changes.
'This conclusion is plausible considering the greater ability of leaders to influence a positive work environment', wrote Xu and coauthors.
How to fix it
Experts say that once the bedroom and bed have been associated with poor sleep, anxiety can be increased by simply entering the room. Experts say that bad sleep habits such as working, eating, watching TV, and worrying while in bed, can reinforce this negative association.
The Stimulus Control Therapy can help break the link between sleepiness and the bedroom. It does this by teaching the mind that the bed and bedroom are places for good sleeping, and removing cues to activities that prevent falling asleep.
Can't sleep? Experts say that the first thing you should do is get up if your sleep hasn't been achieved within 15 to 20 minutes. Avoid blue light from electronics and keep the lights dim. Watching TV, using your smartphone or computer can send a message to the brain that it is time to get up. Fold socks or do something else mindless until you fall asleep. Then you can go to sleep.
Work worries are causing you to race? Sleep specialist Dr. Raj Dasgupta is an associate professor of Clinical Medicine at Keck School of medicine, University of Southern California. He advises that you should not worry at night.
Dasgupta said that he did not participate in the study. He suggested scheduling a "worry-time" -- a time spent outside the bedroom and outside sleep to think about things that come up in your head at night.
In an earlier interview, Dr. Vsevolod Politsky, a sleep researcher and vice chair of research at the George Washington University Department of Anesthesiology & Critical Care Medicine, offered this advice to CNN: "Write down tomorrow's list of tasks." You can email it to yourself.
Deep breathing can calm the body and mind. By altering the rhythm of your breathing, you can slow down your heart rate and blood pressure. You will also stimulate your body's parasympathetic "rest and digest" system. The 4-7-8 breathing technique is one of the most common deep breathing techniques. It can be easily done before turning out the lights. If you are awoken in the middle of the evening, try the relaxation exercise once more.
Experts say that progressive muscle relaxation is another proven technique. Tensify muscles in different parts of your body while inhaling. Squeeze each muscle, but do not squeeze so hard that you feel pain or cramps. As you exhale, suddenly relax each muscle. University of Michigan Health suggests that you perform the exercises from head to foot.