When Does Stress at Work Keep You up at Night?

Workplace stress is the most commonly reported cause of trouble sleeping. To learn more about what actually disrupts our sleep (and what actually makes us feel tired), let’s break workplace stress down to the 7 basic sources identified by a large-scale analysis of 79 research studies (also see this previous post about workplace stress).

These are the 7 basic sources of workplace stress:

Interpersonal Conflict: Negative workplace interactions such as disagreements, arguments, or bullying

Lack of Control: Inability to determine how or when job tasks are performed

Organizational Constraints: Things that prevent employees from completing tasks and performing their job effectively; often a lack of necessary information, tools, time, materials, or authority

Role Ambiguity: Ambiguity about job role and responsibilities—specifically when expectations, standards, tasks, duties, or other responsibilities are not clearly established

Role Conflict: Ambiguity about job role and responsibilities—specifically when inconsistent or conflicting role information is given by one or more customer, coworker, manager/supervisor

Work Hours: Number of hours spent working within a given period of time

Workload: The amount of work required of an employee, factoring both physical and mental effort


Sleep disturbances: What makes it difficult to sleep?

  • Sleep disturbances are most strongly related to interpersonal conflict. They are also moderately related to lack of control and organizational constraints.
  • Sleep disturbances are much more strongly related to role conflict than they are to role ambiguity.
  • Sleep disturbances are much more strongly related to workload than to work hours.


Fatigue: What makes you feel tired?

  • Fatigue is most strongly related to workload and organizational constraints.
  • Unlike with sleep disturbances, fatigue is very weakly related to interpersonal conflict and lack of control.
  • Unlike sleep disturbances, fatigue is much more strongly related to role ambiguity than to role conflict.


While there are some points of overlap, it seems that the types of workplace stress that make it difficult to sleep at night are largely distinct from the things that make you feel tired during the day. While the current evidence doesn’t tell us exactly why this is the case, there is plenty of room for speculation. What do you think?

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  1. Pingback: Not Hungry? It Could Be Workplace Stress - Cangrade Blog

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