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Ergovera's Ergo Savvy Newsletter )

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 We help protect people, your company's most valuable asset December 2002 

In This Issue
Holiday stress-reduction tips that you can apply year-round
Research: stress disrupts sleep
Credits and notices

Published by Ergovera Ergonomic Consulting to help you keep up on ergonomic innovations, so you can protect your employees and increase their productivity. Please pass it on to your colleagues and friends.

I love the lights at Christmas, the smells, and the gathering with family and close friends. But even though it may be "good stress," most of us experience more stress than usual during the holiday frenzy. When combined with job stress, it can become rather overwhelming.

I keep hearing from my clients that both managers and employees have heavier workloads due to layoffs during this dismal economy. Many of my clients are now responsible for a growing variety of duties, from safety (a very broad field) to Workers' Compensation and disability management.

More work means more stress daily, and research shows that stress can lead to sleep disturbances, depression and even hyperventilation. That's why the research report in this issue focuses on sleep disturbances related to job stress. Although this research is not about ergonomics, specifically, psychological stress inevitably puts additional pressure on the body too. During this already stressful season, especially, it's important to try to avoid burdening yourself or your employees with even bigger workloads, physically demanding work, and irregular or rotating shifts.

However, the recent studies I summarize in this issue offer reasons to be of good cheer, too:

  • Supervisors have reduced risks of sleep problems.
  • People older than 30 years also have an advantage.
  • A high level of social support at work can help reduce the risk of sleep disturbances.

So, look for ways to increase social support for your employees while they're at work, not only during this holiday season, but also throughout the new year. Whenever you take a little time to have fun with your co-workers, you make life a little less stressful for them and for yourself.

Have safe and happy holidays,
Deidre Rogers, RN, MS, CAE

A study in Sweden of 5,720 healthy employed men and women [Åkerstedt et al.] found that high work demands were risk indicators for disturbed sleep, while high social support was associated with reduced risk. Surprisingly, they found that older workers were more likely to feel well rested. This study also showed that the inability to stop worrying about work during free time may be an important link in the relationship between stress and sleep.

A Scottish study [Heslop et al.] of approximately 3,514 working men and women found that those who perceived themselves as under high stress reported a reduction in the hours of sleep. These researchers also studied the effects of decreased nightly sleep and concluded that people who slept less than 7-8 hours a day had an increased risk of dying.

A smaller, Japanese study [Kawada et al.] of 95 subjects found that older workers had a significantly earlier sleep onset time when they worked morning and evening shifts than when they worked night shifts. Older morning-shift workers also slept significantly longer than younger workers. The researchers concluded that older workers may go to sleep earlier because of physiological (circadian) or social factors associated with shift work. They also concluded that workers with rotating work schedules get less sleep, overall, than people with regular schedules.


Åkerstedt, T., Knutsson, A., Westerholm, P., Theorell, T., Alfredsson, L. & Kecklund, G. (2002). Sleep disturbances, work stress and work hours: a cross- sectional study. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, (53), 741-748.

Heslop, P., Smith, G., Metcalfe, C., Macleod, J. & Hart, C. (2002). Sleep duration and mortality: the effect of short or long sleep duration on cardiovascular and all-cause mortality in working men and women. Sleep Medicine, 3, (4), 305-314.

Kawada, D. (2002). Effect of age on sleep onset time in rotating shift workers. Sleep Medicine, 3, (5), 423-426.

Copyright © 2002, Deidre Rogers and Ergovera Ergonomic Consulting. All rights reserved. Reuse in any form must be requested and granted in writing.

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