Sleepless Nights, Work Stress and Hypertension
A Lethal Combination
A new study by Prof. Dr. Jian Li and colleagues of University of Düsseldorf and German Research Center for Environmental Health finds that the combined effects of trouble sleeping and work stress increases the risk of death from cardiovascular disease by three-fold for those with hypertension. According to the researchers, psychosocial factors impact people with hypertension more strongly than those without such condition. While work stress alone is enough to put the circulatory system into overdrive, the added load of insomnia exhausts our bodies even more.
Sleep is crucial in helping us recover from accumulated stress in our bodies. While we sleep, the glymphatic system turns on in the brain and prevents the buildup of proteins such as beta-amyloid (known to contribute to Alzheimer’s Disease). Moreover, the researchers note in their article that “sleep contributes substantially to the recuperative process of the central nervous system, restoring not only brain physiology but also alertness, memory capacity and mood.” As such, sleep deprivation on top of work-related stress significantly lowers the quality of life for an individual with high blood pressure – potentially resulting in early death.
The researchers obtained their data from a population-based cohort study (MONICA/KORA) conducted between 1984 and 1995 in southern Germany. Only analyzing data from 1,959 individuals, the researchers restricted the sample size to those who were workers, had trouble sleeping, work stress and hypertension at baseline.
For this study, work stress was defined as “working under low control and high demand” conditions. In other words, individuals who have a demanding job but no authority to make their own decisions feel pressured by their work.
Prof. Dr. Jian Li and colleagues found in their study that hypertensive participants who worked under stressful conditions and had impaired sleep were three times more likely to die from cardiovascular disease – compared to healthy individuals. Those who had work stress alone increased their risk by 1.6 times. People with poor sleep only had a 1.8 times higher risk of death. During a follow-up period of 18 years, this risk increased with each condition.
Better sleep helps
Our bodies might tolerate a couple of sleepless nights but the accumulated effects of impaired sleep, in addition to work stress pose a threat to our lives. Here are some tips to recover from daily wear and tear:
- Create a routine around sleep time. It might not be possible to go to bed around the same time every night, however, it is possible to stick to one thing that you regularly do to signal your brain that it is time for sleep. Changing into your pj’s, brushing your teeth, listening to relaxing music are all examples.
- Go to bed when you feel sleepy. If stressful thoughts about work keep you awake, write about them. Set an alarm and give yourself 15 minutes to write about tomorrow’s worries. When the time is up, stop writing and prepare to rest.
- Consuming stimulating foods and beverages also contribute to impaired sleep. Drink relaxing teas instead of caffeinated drinks to calm your nerves.
- Consider Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for insomnia. CBT is an evidence-based therapy to reframe how we related to our thoughts. If excessive worrying is keeping you up at night, seek professional help.
The study was published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.
To read more about the glymphatic system, check out our previous article: https://kurious.ku.edu.tr/en/news/how-deep-is-your-sleep/
- 1. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/2047487319839183#_i6
- 2. https://psychcentral.com/news/2019/04/28/work-stress-and-trouble-sleeping-can-be-toxic-combination/144956.html
- 3. https://stanfordhealthcare.org/medical-treatments/c/cognitive-behavioral-therapy-insomnia.html