Some of Us Really Have to Work at Sleep

The unemployed are 40 percent more likely to have sleep problems

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(RxWiki News) Unemployment can affect your health in so many ways, including your ability to sleep, according to a recent analysis by the Economic and Social Research Council.

Looking at data from around 14,000 households in the U.K., researchers found that people who are employed or self-employed sleep much more soundly than those who are unemployed. More specifically, unemployed individuals are over 40 percent more likely than employed individuals to report problems staying asleep.

dailyRx Insight: Surprise, surprise. Your job affects how well or how poorly you sleep.

It's not only employment that affects quality of sleep, the study shows, but also how the employed view their jobs. More than 30 percent of individuals who were least satisfied with their jobs reported poor sleep quality, compared to 18 percent of individuals who were happiest with their jobs.

According to Professor Sara Arber, of the University of Surrey, this study and others have established links between sleep, social and economic circumstances, and poor health. In light of these relationships, campaigns to promote health should take into account that higher rates of sleep problems among society's disadvantaged could be contributing to the poorer health of that segment of society.

The study's findings also show that work hours affected sleep. Among those who worked more than 48 hours per week, 14 percent of women and 11 percent of men slept for less than six hours each night. Employees who work for long hours also report poor sleep quality. More than 30 percent of women who work long hours reported poor sleep quality, compared to 23 percent of those who work between 31 to 48 hours per week.

Sleep is essential for any human to function healthily. Sleep deprivation is associated with a number of physical and mental health problems, injury, productivity loss, and risk of death. According to a CDC analysis, more than 11 percent of adults in the United States reported having insufficient sleep or rest for all of the 30 days prior to being asked.

Experts at the National Sleep Foundation say that adults need seven to nine hours of sleep per night. However, nearly 30 percent of adults report sleeping fewer than seven hours per night.

It is important for health care professionals to evaluate patients with sleep problems and to warn them of the health complications that can arise from not getting enough sleep.

Over 50 million American adults have chronic sleep and wakefulness disorders. There are many different kinds of sleep disorders, but the most common ones deal with insomnia (not being able to fall asleep or stay asleep) and sleep apnea (poor sleep due to physical or neurological problems with breathing during sleep). Other disorders such as narcolepsy (excessive daytime sleepiness), restless legs syndrome (need to move while falling asleep), and sleepwalking are less common, but often cause considerable distress and disability. Treatments for sleep disorders generally can be grouped into four categories: behavioral treatments, rehabilitation management, medications and other somatic treatments. None of these general approaches is sufficient for all patients with sleep disorders. Diagnosis is often made by the patient going to a sleep lab, where breathing, heart rate, and brain activity is measured while the patient sleeps at the facility.

This study is an early analysis of data from Understanding Society, the largest longitudinal household study in the world.

Last Updated:
October 7, 2013