We know sleep is critical for our health, but unfortunately, there’s a lot that can get in the way including work stress. In a recent survey, the APA found that work is one of the five most significant causes of stress in America, and it’s not uncommon that work stress can lead to sleep issues including trouble falling asleep and staying asleep.
While both work stress and difficulty sleeping are detrimental to people’s health on their own, a new study published in the European Journal of Preventative Cardiology found that when combined, employees with hypertension (high blood pressure) faced a higher risk of cardiovascular failure.
The study participants included about 2,000 employees with hypertension between the ages of 25 and 65. Work stress was characterized as a work environment that was high demand and low control meaning that employees are asked a lot but cannot make decisions on their own. Sleep impairment was defined as challenges with getting to sleep and staying asleep.
Based on their analysis, they found that people who had work stress and impaired sleep had a three times greater chance of dying from cardiovascular disease than those with neither of these risk factors.
“Sleep should be a time for recreation, unwinding, and restoring energy levels. If you have stress at work, sleep helps you recover. Unfortunately, poor sleep and job stress often go hand in hand, and when combined with hypertension, the effect is even more toxic,” said the study author Professor Karl-Heinz Ladwig, of the German Research Centre for Environmental Health and the Medical Faculty, Technical University of Munich, in a statement.
If you’re worried this sounds like you or someone you know, Professor Ladwig points out that this study suggests that the risk of cardiovascular death does not come about after a day of work stress and poor sleep; it’s over many years. That being said, the study suggests that doctors talk to their patients with high blood pressure about their work stress and sleep habits to help mitigate this potential risk.
Whether you have hypertension or not, it’s worth developing strategies to decrease work stress and improve sleep as these factors have their own health implications. While we can’t always change external factors at work that are out of our control, there are stress management tools such as engaging in physical activity, improving diet, and practicing breathing exercises that may help reduce stress.
In conjunction with lowering stress at work, you can also try some holistic sleep remedies including getting outside during the day, getting into a relaxed state before bed, and ditching caffeine later in the day. It’s possible that by decreasing stress you’ll improve sleep quality, or more zzz’s may lower your stress at work, either way, this sounds like a win for not only our physical health but mental health as well.