Work Hassles the Worst for Sleep

Jerry Kennard Health Pro

    Difficulties in getting to sleep, or repeated waking due to ruminations or anxieties about work, have become something of an epidemic. But it is the everyday hassles at work that are most likely to cause sleep problems than long hours, night shifts, or job insecurity. These are the findings from Sarah Burgard, Ph.D, a sociologist and assistant professor at the University of Michigan, analyzed data on sleeping habits from nearly a decade's worth of nationally representative samples, from approximately 2,300 adults.


    According to the study, people who are frequently upset at work or have conflicts with bosses and co-workers are nearly twice as likely to develop sleep problems. Estimates from other studies suggest that around 70 million Americans have some form of sleep disorder. Poor sleep is associated with an increased risk of health problems and accidents.

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    The drip-drip effect of stress is cumulative and harmful. Daily hassles are argued by Kanner (1981) to be more stressful than major life events. In the first study of its kind, Kanner conceptualized hassles as, ‘irritating, frustrating and distressing demands', like getting stuck in traffic, losing keys, being involved in disputes, arguments and disappointments. The resulting Hasssles Scale has been used frequently as a way to measure minor daily stressors. Empirical evidence shows relationships between hassles, psychological and physical ill health.


    In what seems to be the first study to clarify the relationship between work hassles and sleep quality, Burgard was able to show that work conditions affect sleep,  not the other way around. Speaking at the annual meeting of the Population Association of America, Burgard stated that physical hazards have now been overtaken by psychological stress. "Physical strain at work tends to create physical fatigue and leads to restorative sleep, but psychological strain has the opposite effect", Burgard said.


    Shifting patterns in the work labor force means that many more women now work. When Burgard looked at this she found that work-family conflicts and the presence of children under the age of three were predictors of poor sleep, yet this did not explain the relationship between work hassles and sleep quality. Moreover, there was no evidence that the often complex patterns involved in juggling work and childcare commitments had any effect on sleep.

    Dr. Jerry Kennard is a psychologist & co-founder of

Published On: June 02, 2008