Psychosocial factors at work and sleep problems: a longitudinal study of the general working population in Norway

Int Arch Occup Environ Health. 2017 Oct;90(7):597-608. doi: 10.1007/s00420-017-1222-2. Epub 2017 Apr 20.


Purpose: A growing number of longitudinal studies report associations between adverse psychosocial factors at work and sleep problems. However, the evidence regarding the direction of these associations and the effects of changes in exposure across time is limited. This study examined the plausibility of normal, reverse, and reciprocal associations between ten psychosocial factors at work and sleep problems. In addition, we analyzed if reduced exposure across time had the anticipated result of reducing the risk of sleep problems.

Methods: Randomly drawn from the general working-age population, the cohort comprised respondents with an active employee relationship in 2009 and 2013 (N = 5760). Exposures and outcome were measured on two occasions separated by 4 years. We computed several sex-stratified logistic regression models with adjustments for various plausible confounders.

Results: We found support for the commonly hypothesized unidirectional forward associations between psychosocial factors at work and sleep problems among women only. Among men, psychosocial stressors at work and sleep problems were reciprocally and reversely related. Nevertheless, reduced exposure levels across time pertaining to effort-reward imbalance (OR = 0.36; 95% CI = 0.19-0.69) and lack of social support (OR = 0.55; 95% CI = 0.32-0.93) among men, and work-family imbalance (OR = 0.26; 95% CI = 0.15-0.46) among women were associated with a robust significant lower risk of sleep problems compared to those in the stable high exposure groups.

Conclusions: The study results suggest that preventive measures targeting effort-reward imbalance and lack of social support among men, and work-family imbalance among women, might contribute to reduce the risk of troubled sleep among employees.

Keywords: Job demands; Occupational exposure; Prospective study; Sleep; Workload.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Cohort Studies
  • Dyssomnias / epidemiology*
  • Dyssomnias / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Job Satisfaction
  • Logistic Models
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Norway / epidemiology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Reward
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Distribution
  • Social Support
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Time Factors
  • Work / psychology*
  • Work-Life Balance
  • Workplace / psychology
  • Young Adult