The effect of job stress on sleep includes everything from work-related worries keeping you up past bedtime to waking up in the middle of the night concerned about tomorrow’s big corporate meeting. Reducing stress at work or finding ways to make your job more enjoyable may help improve the quality of your rest.
The Practical Effect of Job Stress on Sleep
Job stressors affect sleep in many different ways, and the sleep problems you experience because of work stress may not be the exact same as the issues your coworkers face. Recognizing sleep issues that may be caused by work is the first step to getting better rest so you can stay alert and awake throughout your workday.
On average, American workers report:
- Trouble falling asleep 5.3 days per month
- Trouble staying asleep 6.6 days per month
- Trouble waking up on time for work 5 days per month
Poor sleep quality caused by work can create a self-perpetuating cycle. If you aren’t getting restful sleep, your job performance could suffer, which adds to work-related stress. Long-term sleep issues caused by job stress might also affect your overall health.
The Causes of Sleep-Disrupting Job Stress
The type of work you do and your specific job duties may impact your sleep in different ways. Work issues related to boredom may have a different effect than an overloaded schedule or interpersonal issues between coworkers.
Being overloaded with work can affect sleep quality by causing chronic or acute sleep loss and messing up your circadian rhythms, which help your body know when to sleep and when to wake up. When you have too much work to do within a reasonable time frame, you might be stressed about completing everything on time. Some workers end up staying at work longer than normal to finish tasks, while others might rush to complete tasks without any breaks or downtime, which can increase stress levels as the intensity of the work rises.
Role conflict develops when the demands of your job don’t match up to your actual position, such as when you are loaded up with extra responsibilities or have to juggle the job duties of multiple positions because your workplace hasn’t hired enough people. Job stress related to role conflict often results in poor quality sleep, including difficulty getting to sleep and periods of restless sleep that fail to leave you feeling refreshed upon waking.
If you have a job with lots of repetitive tasks that don’t offer any mental challenge, you might develop sleep difficulties due to job-related boredom. People in non-stimulating repetitive jobs report trouble falling asleep and staying asleep through the night.
Lack of Support
A lack of support in the workplace is another type of job-related stress that can affect your sleep. People who can’t act independently at work or who feel as though their bosses aren’t providing enough responsibility may have trouble sleeping soundly. Interpersonal conflicts with coworkers or a lack of friendships with others at work can also cause stress that could lead to sleepless nights.
Your work schedule might affect your sleep if it doesn’t correlate well to your regular sleep pattern. Night shift work and changing shifts that don’t let you sleep regularly can disrupt your sleep routine and add stress to your work life.
Reducing Job Stress to Improve Your Sleep
Targeted programs to reduce job stress could significantly improve your sleep in as little as six weeks. The two main ways to fix sleep problems related to job stress are reducing the factors causing stress and developing new coping skills.
If you’re trying to reduce work stress that is impacting your sleep, consider some of these methods:
- Set up a meeting with your supervisors to suggest changes to your work schedule or the tasks you are assigned.
- Take breaks during your workday and try relaxation exercises, such as meditation or breathing exercises, during those breaks.
- Schedule exercise breaks to get physically moving throughout the workday.
To develop coping skills when dealing with work stress, you may want to consider cognitive behavioral therapy. Some things you can try on your own include:
- Building up your personal resilience by making connections with coworkers and forming a support network that you can talk to about your job
- Asking your supervisor or boss for more resources that you can use to address issues at work
- Learning how to recognize the physical responses that accompany stress and taking action before the stress becomes overwhelming
Keep in mind that work stress can impact your health in the long term, not just in ways related to sleep disturbances. If your job is causing too much stress, searching for more enjoyable work or a better employment situation may help ensure restful sleep and a healthier life.