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Could work stress affect how you sleep?

New research has found that working conditions, stress and work-life balance affect the sleep health of older employees

Physical workload could negatively impact sleep as well.
Physical workload could negatively impact sleep as well. (Photo by Allan Wadsworth, Unsplash)

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An under-researched topic related to sleep among older workers is now better understood thanks to a recent study from the Universities of Eastern Finland and Turku. 2,771 Finnish municipal workers who were close to retirement were included in the study.

The study examined how mental and physical working conditions, stressful life situations, and work-life balance were associated with sleep problems in older employees.

Also Read: Why sleep is important for your health and well-being

Work and nonwork stressors are associated with sleep problems

In another population study, more than half of Finnish men aged 60-69 and nearly 70% of Finnish women reported symptoms of insomnia during the past month.

"In our study, we identified four different components that are associated with mental stress. These are physical workload and shift work, psychosocial workload, social and environmental nonwork adversity, and life event- and health-related nonwork adversity," Professor of Psychology Marianna Virtanen of the University of Eastern Finland says.

Social and environmental nonwork adversity refers to loneliness and little interaction with one's neighbours. Life event- and health-related nonwork adversity refers to a stressful event in one's life, or the provision of informal care.

"The more an employee had work and nonwork stressors, the more problems they also had with sleep."

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Flexibility is an important target for development.

Different stress factors were associated with sleep problems in different ways: work-related stress was linked to current sleep problems, whereas loneliness and stress related to one's living environment predicted increasing sleep problems during the follow-up. Psychosocial working conditions were also associated with sleep quality.

"In this study, psychosocial working conditions were described by the contents and arrangements of work, such as opportunities for influencing and working hours, as well as by competence development, and fair management."

Funded by the Finnish Work Environment Fund, the project provides information on factors at which development measures and interventions could be targeted for older employees.

"Especially when there are stress factors in private life, such as severe illness or death in the family, or being an informal caregiver for someone, flexible working hours are an important target for development," Virtanen concludes. 

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