Academic journal article Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment & Health

Psychosocial Work Characteristics and Sleep Quality: A Systematic Review of Longitudinal and Intervention Research

Academic journal article Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment & Health

Psychosocial Work Characteristics and Sleep Quality: A Systematic Review of Longitudinal and Intervention Research

Article excerpt

Van Laethem M, Beckers DGJ, Kompier MAJ, Dijksterhuis A, Geurts SAE. Psychosocial work characteristics and sleep quality: a systematic review of longitudinal and intervention research. Scand J Work Environ Health. 2013;39(6):535-549 doi:10.5271/sjweh.3376

Objectives The objective of this study was to review longitudinal and intervention studies examining the association between psychosocial work characteristics (eg, job demands, job control, and social support) and sleep quality. Our main research aims were to examine whether (i) psychosocial work characteristics are a predictor of sleep quality, and (ii) sleep quality, in turn, is a predictor of psychosocial work characteristics.

Methods A systematic literature search resulted in 20 relevant papers, of which 16 were longitudinal studies and 3 were intervention studies ( 1 study was discussed in separate papers). To quantify results, we assessed the strength of evidence of all examined associations and subsequently evaluated the studies' research quality based on predefined quality criteria.

Results One intervention and three longitudinal studies were categorized as being of high-quality. In longitudinal studies, we found consistent and strong evidence for a negative relation between job demands and sleep quality as well as evidence for a positive relation between job control and sleep quality. Other psychosocial work characteristics were examined in an insufficient number of (high-quality) studies. Moreover, both intervention studies as well as studies investigating reversed and reciprocal relations are rare, which further limits the possibility of drawing conclusions on causality.

Conclusions Based on the current literature, it can be concluded that high job demands and low job control are predictors of poor sleep quality. More high-quality research is needed to examine the possible causal relationship between these and other psychosocial work characteristics with sleep quality, in addition to research focusing on reversed and reciprocal relations.

Key terms fatigue; health; insomnia; psychosocial factor; psychosocial work environment; stress; well-being

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Sleep problems are highly prevalent in modern society. Approximately one third of people in Western countries experience sleep problems (eg, short sleep duration, disturbed sleep continuity, overall dissatisfaction with sleep) multiple times a week and 7-9% can be diagnosed with insomnia according to DSM-IV criteria (1-3). Self-reported insomnia symptoms, also referred to as poor sleep quality in the current study, includes >1 of the following complaints (4): (i) difficulty initiating sleep, (ii) difficulty maintaining sleep (iii), waking up too early, or (iv) non-restorative sleep. Individuals must experience >1 symptoms for >3 nights per week to meet the criteria of poor sleep quality. To be diagnosed with clinical insomnia disorder, insomnia symptoms must be present longer than one month and individuals must experience daytime consequences in social, occupational or other areas of daily life (1).

Poor sleep quality has been linked to several health problems such as cardiovascular disease (5, 6), obesity (7), diabetes (8), depression and anxiety (9-11), and is a risk factor for mortality (12-14). Previous research has shown that (chronic) stress is an important antecedent of poor sleep quality and that work can be an important cause of stress (15). Many work-related stressors are psychosocial in nature (16). Psychosocial work stressors refer to the job content including functional and social elements (eg, excessive job demands, low job control, low social support at work) (17). Considering the link between stress and sleep quality on the one hand, and work and stress on the other, one may hypothesize that unfavorable psychosocial work characteristics ("stressors") are related to reduced sleep quality.

Indeed, several studies have found a relation between work-related psychosocial stressors (ie, high workload, job strain, cognitive and emotional job demands, job insecurity, bullying) and poor sleep quality (18-23). …

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