Given the amount of time and effort we put into our jobs, it should not be a surprise that our work can be harmful to our sleep. Rotating schedules, overnight or early morning hours, extensive traveling, and high stress responsibilities can prevent you from achieving a healthy sleep schedule and increase the risk of chronic health problems. Air traffic controllers, pilots, medical residents, and truck drivers are some of the most common professions that pose a threat to inefficient sleep. Here are some of the most common work-related sleep problems:
Shift Work. Constantly changing or rotating work schedules can make it increasingly difficult to establish a consistent sleep routine. Waking up and going to bed at different times of the day is just not efficient. This lack of routine can cause disruptions to the body’s circadian rhythms, the 24-hour biological “clock” that regulates sleep-wake cycles. Studies have shown that shift workers are also at a higher risk to suffer injuries and accidents at work. Shift work can also increase the risk of chronic diseases linked with poor sleep, such as stroke and heart disease. It would also seem that almost every job out there has shift work, as it ranges from the airport personnel and technical support all the way to public health and safety officials such as firefighters and police officers. This makes sleep problems associated with shift work a public health issue of its own, as we all have a vested interest in addressing sleep issues in these fields.
Long Hours. The duration of your work can be just as hazardous to your sleep and health as shift work. Daytime impairment, difficulty falling asleep, and shortened sleep hours are associated with working long hours. A recent study on nurses found that those with more overtime and long hours were more likely to report poor sleep than those who worked regular hours. These same nurses were also more likely to be obese, overweight, exercise less, and engage in unhealthy activities, such as smoking. The connection between long hours and sleep problems may not be as recognized as that of shift work, but the impact is very real and deserves more study and attention.
High Stress. Worry and stress are enemies to sleep. A job that puts a lot of pressure and stress on a person often makes it hard for them to be able to leave work problems at their workplace. Worry has its greatest impact on sleep during the ages of 35 to 55. It also mostly happens at the time when most people are raising a family. From the outside, high-ranking, prestigious jobs can appear to be the best thing in the world, but they come with a lot of pressure to succeed and responsibility. Positions such as these demand long hours, and are ones that people never really leave, where the separation between work life and non-work life is tenuous at best. New research has shown that software engineers have an elevated risk of insomnia when compared to the regular population. Wall Street investment bankers are also fighting increased insomnia and depression risk.
It’s easy to get so caught up in managing our daily lives that we forget about sleep. Taking a look at how your job affects your sleep may help you create strategies for getting the sleep you need. It is truly the foundation for our overall well-being, don’t leave home without it!