The connection between stress and sleep disorders was found a long time ago, but there are still millions of people who have trouble sleeping every night of their lives. Some experience bouts of stress and insomnia, others have to deal with such poor levels of sleep quality they feel perpetually exhausted.
According to recent research, seven out of 10 Americans declare they feel stressed and anxious every day and that such a state of mind interferes on a moderate-to-severe level with their quality of life. Moreover, the same seven out of 10 stressed Americans also say they experience trouble sleeping.
Is Your Job Affecting Your Quality of Sleep and Life?
One interesting fact from the same study showed that people, when asked why they were having trouble sleeping, were more than willing to admit that they were stressing about work. Besides worrying about daily job tasks, deadlines, paychecks, economic instability and personal budgets, some people are directly affected by the job itself. Night shifts, jobs with high levels of responsibility, and repetitive jobs are currently being studied as insomnia and disturbed circadian rhythm triggers.
Medical experts have listed some of the most dangerous jobs for sleep:
- Air traffic controller
- Network administrator
- Factory worker
- Nurse, medical intern, and doctor
- Truck driver
- Call center operator
- Tech support
- Pilots and airport personnel
- Policeman and fireman
Your job can negatively impact your quality of sleep in a great number of ways, but specialists have determined three main factors that damage your sleep and life quality most.
Needless to say, working in shifts, sleeping at odd hours and spending the day sleeping while working at night severely disrupts a person’s circadian rhythm (our biological clock that regulates daytime activity and nighttime sleep). Shift workers are at higher risk of developing insomnia or obstructive sleep apnea. Moreover, shift workers also present higher risks of work accidents and injuries, and higher risks of developing illnesses associated with poor sleep (strokes and heart attacks).
It’s not just the shifts that affect your sleep; it is also the duration of work itself. Overtime these can lead to severe sleep disorders and associated diseases. People in positions of supervision and management, for example, often report exhaustion, insomnia, poor quality of sleep, daytime impairments and so on.
Some jobs simply come with pressures, burdens, and responsibilities, even if they are well paid and prestigious. Recent studies show that people in IT, engineering, finance, science, and banking among others experience severe insomnia linked to worry, anxiety, depression and the difficulty people in these positions face separating work from their personal lives.
The problem is that acute sleep disorders can cause heart disease and other health issues if left untreated.
If you can’t quit your job, what else can you do?
How to Deal With Stress at Work
You may not be able to control what happens with the stock market today or persuade your dog not to steal your side of the bed, but you can do something about your sleep patterns.
If you can’t make a career shift that will lead to more regular daytime hours or less stress, there may be other techniques you can use to get better, more restful sleep.
Here are a few tips for how to deal with work stress and tools to boost your quality of sleep and quality of life.
1. Challenge stressful, work-related thoughts
This is a meditation technique borrowed from Buddhist practices. As you lie down in bed, acknowledge the torrent of thoughts that flood you and keep you wide awake. But instead of ruminating on the subject matter, focus on the thoughts themselves. Where do they come from? What triggered them? Where does a thought lead? How does it make you feel? What behaviors can that feeling trigger in the future?
If you practice this technique for a while, you will realize that thoughts, as powerful as they are, can still be broken down into pieces and understood at a micro-level. And the more we understand something, the less frightening it will appear.
2. Breathing meditation
This is one of the oldest and simplest ways to relax. Lie comfortably in bed with your eyes closed. Breathe through your nose and focus on breathing itself and how it makes you feel. Acknowledge how the air goes through your nose and deep into your lungs and how you feel when you exhale. If thoughts start flooding you, stop and restart your breathing practice, focusing on its cycles (one inhale and one exhale make a cycle).
Research shows that acupuncture can relieve stress and anxiety and help alleviate some effects of sleep disorders. Acupuncture has been show to help with depression and stabilize one’s inner mind-body balance. If traditional meditation isn’t helping with your sleep struggles, acupuncture may be a useful tool for you.
4. Insert a buffer zone in your daily routine
Those suffering from insomnia have a hard time falling asleep, and this is why they need a buffer zone—a period of time to allow their brain to engage in pre-sleeping processes and prepare the body and the mind for sleep.
Your “buffer zone” should last at least two hours before sleep. It is a time period that should contain no stress factors like phone calls, reading email, browsing social media and so on. Although watching TV or a movie may work for some, specialists recommend that you read or listen to music at least one hour before bed instead.
5. Make your bed, then lie in it
Many don’t know that even the smallest detail in their sleeping environment can aid with sweet dreams or keep sleep far from the bedroom. If you are struggling to get to sleep and sleep well, it’s time to pay attention to how you actually sleep.
Is the dog bothering you all night? Sorry, boy, you should learn to sleep somewhere else. Is your partner snoring? Try techniques for soothing their snores. Are there blinking lights in the room? Some noises that seem to grind every brain cell you got left? Are the bed sheets too crumpled? Is the mattress a nightmare, offering you nothing but back pain? Are the pillows causing you headaches in the morning?
It’s time to take action. Work to correct any aspects of your sleep environment that bothers you before you fall asleep and the second you wake up in the morning. Get a Purple Mattress for sleep comfort, throw away the blinking light sources, cover your windows for more darkness, get some sleep-facilitating sounds, try aromatherapy, and so on. You can even try to change your bed covers, as some synthetic fabrics can irritate you while you sleep.
There are many strategies to sleep better, even if everything seems stacked against you. Continue to learn about sleep, relaxation techniques, and sleep-friendly products and tools until you’ve fully optimized your sleep experience. And always remember that you are not alone and you can share your experiences, successes and failures with the rest of us zombies!
Amanda Wilks is a former Boston University valedictorian and a skilled content crafter at Job Descriptions. She loves witnessing and studying the ever shifting trends of the workforce: boomerang employees, talent mobility, wearable technology, freelance marketplace expansion, etc. All of this (and the akin) is currently under the scope of her interest. Follow Amanda on Twitter @AmandaWilks01.