Workers who took part in an intervention designed to reduce conflicts between their work schedules and their family lives got an extra hour of sleep each week and reported greater sleep satisfaction than workers who did not participate, according to a new study conducted by sleep researchers from several institutions.
The intervention, called the Work, Family, and Health Network Study, focused on U.S. employees of an information technology firm. Both managers and employees participated in a three-month process that included interactive sessions with facilitated discussions, role-playing, and games. Managers were trained in ways to better support family life.
“Increasing family-supportive supervision and employee control over work time benefited the sleep of hundreds of employees, and even greater effects may be possible if sleep is overtly addressed in workplace interventions,” explained lead author Ryan Olson, Ph.D., of Oregon Health & Science University.
“The Work, Family, and Health Network Study intervention was designed to reduce work-family conflict. It did not directly address sleep, yet sleep benefits were observed.”
To keep track of the 474 participants’ sleep habits, the researchers used actigraphy, a measurement of individuals’ sleeping and waking patterns via a monitor attached to the wrist. This was done at the beginning of the intervention, to establish baseline measures for all participants, and then again 12 months after the intervention. They also conducted an interview at this time.
The researchers had hypothesized that both sleep duration and insomnia would be improved by the twelfth month; they also hypothesized that any improvement in sleep quality and duration would be helped by employees’ enhanced control over their work time and reduced work-family conflict. These factors were assessed sixth months into the study.
“Here we showed that an intervention focused on changing the workplace culture could increase the measured amount of sleep employees obtain, as well as their perception that their sleep was more sufficient,” noted lead researcher Orfeu M. Buxton, Ph.D., Pennsylvania State University (with secondary appointments at Harvard, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston).
“Work can be a calling and inspirational, as well as a paycheck, but work should not be detrimental to health. It is possible to mitigate some of the deleterious effects of work by reducing work-family conflict, and improving sleep.”
Their study is published in Sleep Health, Journal of the National Sleep Foundation.