TAMPA, Fla. — It’s well documented that excessive stress can lead to sleepless nights, so it makes sense that people with especially demanding jobs or careers may have more trouble getting a good night’s sleep. Interestingly, however, researchers from the University of South Florida find that having too few job demands can be just as disruptive to sleep.
Study authors explain the ideal job situation when it comes to sleep is something in the middle; moderately demanding jobs predict the most optimal sleep health. People working in such roles report both a more regular sleep schedule and falling asleep faster.
Importantly, researchers add that the amount of control an individual feels they have over their working conditions plays a big role in sleep habits as well. The more in control one feels about their job, the better their chances of sleeping well.
“The previous knowledge that demanding work degrades sleep may be overly simplistic,” says senior study author Soomi Lee, an assistant professor in the USF College of Behavioral and Community Sciences School of Aging Studies, in a university release. “The findings move beyond the previous narrative that job demands should be minimized as much as possible to protect workers’ health.”
This research project was led by Monica Nelson, a doctoral candidate in the School of Aging Studies, and was funded by the National Institute on Aging. Made possible thanks to multi-site and interdisciplinary collaborations, this project included Tammy D. Allen, a distinguished professor in the USF College of Arts and Sciences Department of Psychology.
While the research team admits that some may initially consider their findings counterintuitive, they posit that both too few and too many job demands can be related to either work disengagement or excessive stress. Both of those factors are known to disrupt sleep.
Poor sleep can lead to several health problems
Failing to get enough sleep on a regular basis, of course, can contribute to a number of health issues such as cardiovascular disease, dementia, and early death. So, identifying what’s keeping people up at night and developing new ways to promote more restful slumber is an important health topic.
“Past research suggests you need moderate exposure to stress to perform better,” Nelson explains. “We were motivated by this concept and examined whether sleep health would have a sweet spot with moderate exposure to job demands.”
A dataset encompassing nearly 3,000 adults (average age of 48) was analyzed by study authors to reach these findings. Roughly half of these people possessed at least a four-year college degree. Participants were asked about five specific aspects of their jobs: intensity, role conflict, work overload, time pressure, and interruptions.
Additionally, they were asked to respond to questions in relation to five aspects of their sleep patterns: regularity, satisfaction/quality, daytime alertness, efficiency, and duration.
All in all, study authors say people sleep best when they enjoy moderate job demands and adequate control over their work. In more specific terms, that means giving input on work tasks, making decisions about one’s work environment, and learning new things on the job. The research team believes this study can help raise awareness about the importance of job demands-job control balance, and hopefully help both employers and employees settle on ideal work environments that promote healthy sleep among employees.
“Based on these findings, it will be important to examine whether and how changes over time in job demands and control are associated with changes in sleep health,” Prof. Lee concludes.
The study is published in the journal Sleep Health.