A new longitudinal study by UK researchers discovers that being unemployed isn’t just a strain in the harsh light of day — it negatively affects how well one sleeps.
For the employed, job satisfaction also affects the quality of sleep, with 33 percent of the most dissatisfied employees reporting poor sleep quality compared to only 18 percent of the most satisfied.
Researchers discovered those who are unemployed are more than 40 percent more likely to report difficulty staying asleep than those in a job (having controlled for age and gender differences).
Analysis of the early data from the Understanding Society survey found that overall, the best sleep was reported by people with higher levels of education and by married people. The type of work a person does also impacts on sleep, with those in routine occupations reporting worse sleep than those in professional occupations.
According to Sara Arber, Ph.D., of the University of Surrey, who analyzed the findings: “Given the links between sleep, social and economic circumstances and poor health found in this and other surveys, health promotion campaigns should be open to the possibility that the increased incidence of sleep problems among the disadvantaged in society may be one factor leading to their poorer health.”
Understanding Society is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and managed by the Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER) at the University of Essex. It follows 40,000 UK households over many years, and sleep data will be collected annually.
Initial analysis of the sleep data collected in the first survey also found that women are more likely to report problems getting to sleep within 30 minutes, 24 percent on three or more nights a week, compared to 18 per cent of men.
The researchers discovered that problems getting to sleep on three or more nights per week are particularly high under age 25, then decline slightly for men with age, but increase with age for women.
Half of men and women over age 65 report sleep maintenance problems on three or more nights a week, compared to under a fifth of men and a third of women under 25.
The study uncovered that more men than women report that snoring or coughing disturbs their sleep, 30 per cent of men and 20 percent of women more than once a week. Women were also found to be more likely to negatively rate their sleep quality, 26 percent compared to 20 percent of men.
- One in 10 people report taking sleeping medication on three or more nights a week (9 percent of men and 10 percent of women);
- 25 percent of women and 15 per cent of men over 85 report taking sleeping medication on three or more nights a week.
Researchers working on Understanding Society have also examined the data from the perspective of work and sleep. Some 15,000 employees were asked questions about their work and sleep patterns.
Work and length of sleep
- 14 percent of men and women working part-time sleep for more than eight hours per night, declining to about 6 per cent of men and 10 percent of women for those working more than 30 hours per week, and remaining at this level even for people working very long hours (more than 48 hours per week);
- However, for people of both genders working long hours brings an increase in shorter sleep periods: 14 per cent of women and 11 percent of men working more than 48 hours sleep less than six hours per night;
- Poor sleep quality is more frequently reported by long-hours workers and especially among women: 31 percent of long-hours women report poor sleep quality compared to only 23 percent of those who work 31–48 hours per week;
- Looking at these findings altogether suggests that the increase in shorter sleep periods for those working long hours is not only due to time constraints but other pressures such as stress.
Only 6 percent of managers report more than eight hours sleep per night compared to 11 per cent of those without managerial responsibilities.
Job satisfaction and sleep
14 per cent of respondents least satisfied with their jobs reported regularly sleeping for less than six hours per night, compared with only 8 percent of those most satisfied with work.
Source: University of Essex