Different Stressors Associated With Sleep Problems in Older Employees

A new study suggests that work and private life mental stressors are disrupting sleep in older employees, potentially wreaking havoc on health.

Quality sleep is important for recovery, health, and mental wellbeing; however, a recent study found that certain work and private life stressors are contributing to sleep issues among older employees.1

Researchers at the University of Eastern Finland and the University of Turku, funded by the Finnish Work Environment Fund,1 looked at data on 2771 Finnish municipal employees nearing retirement. They discovered an association between mental and physical working conditions, stressful life situations, work-life balance, and sleep problems in these older employees.1

“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 (loneliness and social isolation from neighbors), and life event- and health-related nonwork adversity (stressful life events),” said professor of psychology, Marianna Virtanen, of the University of Eastern Finland, in a press release. “The more an employee had work and nonwork stressors, the more problems they also had with sleep.”1

This past month, more than 50% of Finnish men aged 60-69 years and nearly 70% of Finnish women reported symptoms of insomnia,1 which is often caused by mental health disorders, and vice versa.2 Older people have a greater risk of insomnia, and the Sleep Foundation links recent stressors to sleep issues as well.2

Work-related stress was linked to recent sleep issues, however, loneliness and life stress led researchers to predict increased sleep problems for these individuals in the follow up.1

“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,” Virtanen said in a statement.1

Experts recommend adults get 7-9 hours of quality sleep a night. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine classifies insomnia as difficulty falling asleep or difficult staying asleep, whereby daily living is negatively affected.2 A few symptoms associated with sleep problems include fatigue, impaired memory, irritability, sleepiness, behavioral issues, clumsiness, or stress about sleeping.2

Steps to treat sleeplessness include education, cognitive behavioral therapy, medication, and prevention.2 Preventative measures can include limiting screentime before bed, eating healthy, maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, and avoiding alcohol and caffeine. Additionally, if someone has trouble falling asleep and becomes anxious, they should get out of bed.2

“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 said. 1

References

  1. Mental stress factors are associated with sleep problems among older employees. EurekAlert! Aug 10, 2022. Accessed on Aug 11, 2022. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/961423
  2. The Sleep Foundation. Insomnia: What it is, how it affects you, and how to help you get back your restful nights. Sleep Foundation website. Updated Aug 9, 2022. Accessed Aug 11, 2022. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/insomnia