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Work Stress Can Lead to Overeating But Good Seep Can Provide Buffer

Work Stress Can Lead to Overeating But Good Sleep Can Provide Buffer

Insightful new research confirms that work stress can indeed lead to an unhealthy diet. However, investigators also discovered that a good night’s sleep can help improve healthy habits.

Michigan State (MSU) researchers explain that the study is one of the first to investigate how psychological experiences at work shape eating behaviors.

Investigators discovered work day stress can lead to overeating and unhealthy food choices at dinnertime. But, they also found that a good night’s sleep can serve as a protecting factor between job stress and unhealthy eating in the evening.

The study appears online in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

“We found that employees who have a stressful workday tend to bring their negative feelings from the workplace to the dinner table, as manifested in eating more than usual and opting for more junk food instead of healthy food,” said Chu-Hsiang “Daisy” Chang, MSU associate professor of psychology and study co-author.

“However, another key finding showed how sleep helped people deal with their stressful eating after work,” she added.

“When workers slept better the night before, they tended to eat better when they experienced stress the next day.”

The research involved two studies of 235 total workers in China.

One study dealt with information-technology employees who regularly experienced high workload and felt there was never enough time in the workday. The second study involved call-center workers who often got stressed from having to deal with rude and demanding customers.

In both cases, workday stress was linked to employees’ negative mood while on the job, which in turn was linked to unhealthy eating in the evening, said Yihao Liu, co-author and assistant professor at the University of Illinois.

The study proposed two potential explanations, Liu said.

“First, eating is sometimes used as an activity to relieve and regulate one’s negative mood, because individuals instinctually avoid aversive feelings and approach desire feelings,” he said.

“Second, unhealthy eating can also be a consequence of diminished self-control. When feeling stressed out by work, individuals usually experience inadequacy in exerting effective control over their cognitions and behaviors to be aligned with personal goals and social norms.”

Chang said the finding that sleep protects against unhealthy eating following workday stress shows how the health behaviors are related.

“A good night’s sleep can make workers replenished and feel vigorous again, which may make them better able to deal with stress at work the next day and less vulnerable to unhealthy eating,” she said.

To address the problem, companies should emphasize the importance of health management for their employees and consider sleep-awareness training and flexible scheduling.

Companies should also reconsider the value of food-related job perks, which have become very common.

“Food-related perks may only serve as temporary mood-altering remedies for stressed employees,” Chang said, “and failure to address the sources of the work stress may have potential long-term detrimental effects on employee health.”

Source: Michigan State University

Work Stress Can Lead to Overeating But Good Sleep Can Provide Buffer

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2017). Work Stress Can Lead to Overeating But Good Sleep Can Provide Buffer. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 20, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2017/06/23/work-stress-can-lead-to-overeating-but-good-seep-can-provide-buffer/122325.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 23 Jun 2017
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 23 Jun 2017
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.