Article image

Work stress can be bad for your sleep – and your heart

Work stress and poor sleep have been linked to a higher risk of heart-related deaths in employees who have high blood pressure by a new study.

The problem seems to start with work stress that is severe enough to disrupt sleep. A third of the working population have hypertension, and research has shown that stress can have a stronger effect on people with existing cardiovascular issues than healthy people.

“Sleep should be a time for recreation, unwinding, and restoring energy levels. If you have stress at work, sleep helps you recover,” study author Dr. Karl-Heinz Ladwig said in a press release. “Unfortunately poor sleep and job stress often go hand in hand, and when combined with hypertension the effect is even more toxic.”

Ladwig, a professor at the German Research Centre for Environmental Health and the Technical University of Munich, led a study of 1,959 workers from ages 25 to 65, who have high blood pressure without other cardiovascular disease or diabetes.

They found that those who reported high work stress and sleep issues had a three times higher risk of death from a cardiovascular incident than those who reported little stress and good sleep. Workers who only had work stress had a 1.6 times higher risk, and those with sleep issues alone had a 1.8 times higher risk.

The study, published in the journal European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, monitored workers over about 18 years. It defined work stress as a job with high demand and low control.

“If you have high demands but also high control, in other words you can make decisions, this may even be positive for health,” Ladwig said. “But being entrapped in a pressured situation that you have no power to change is harmful.”

Impaired sleep included both trouble falling asleep and difficulty staying asleep.

The results mean that doctors may want to begin asking patients with hypertension about their work stress and sleep habits, and develop appropriate strategies based on that. Employers should also add sessions educating their employees about stress management and sleep hygiene.

“These are insidious problems,” Ladwig said. “The risk is not having one tough day and no sleep. It is suffering from a stressful job and poor sleep over many years, which fade energy resources and may lead to an early grave.”

By Kyla Cathey, staff writer

News coming your way
The biggest news about our planet delivered to you each day