Researchers at the University of Michigan have shown that common hassles at work are more likely than long hours, night shifts or job insecurity to follow workers home and hamper their sleep.
The study, presented on April 17 at the annual meeting of the Population Association of America, analysed two nationally representative surveys of approximately 2,300 U.S. adults that monitored the same workers for up to a decade.
Over that time, researchers found that roughly half the respondents reported having trouble while sleeping.
Studies in past have shown that lack of sleep can have serious consequences ranging from traffic accidents to health problems, chronic disease and mortality.
However, this is the first known U.S. study to clarify the link between work and sleep quality for all workers who have unusual work and sleep arrangements, not just rotating shift workers or medical students.
Researchers' analysis controlled for initial sleep quality, health, pessimism and other confounding factors.
They found that respondents who felt upset or bothered at work on a frequent basis, or had on-going personal conflicts with bosses or co-workers, were about 1.7 times more likely than others to develop sleep problems.
"Massive changes over the past half-century have reshaped the workplace, with major implications for sleep. For many workers, psychological stress has replaced physical hazards, said U-M sociologist Sarah Burgard.
"Physical strain at work tends to create physical fatigue and leads to restorative sleep, but psychological strain has the opposite effect, making it more difficult for people to sleep," she added.
Researchers also explored how work-family conflict, gender, education and job status affected the relationship between work and sleep.
They found that work-family conflicts and the presence of children under the age of three were significant predictors of negative changes in sleep quality.
The findings showed that respondents with children under the age of three were about 2.2 times as likely to report poor sleep quality, but having young children did not explain the association between hassles at work and sleep quality.
And they found no evidence that long hours, or working nights or weekends had a negative impact on reported sleep quality.
Now, Burgard and her research team plans to explore factors that could buffer workers from negative working conditions, such as age and a sense that one's job is useful or helpful to others.
She also plans to examine interventions that could break the link between work conditions and troubled sleep.