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Jan 26, 2015 10:06 AM EST

Reducing Work-Family Conflicts in the Workplace May Help People to Sleep Better

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New research suggests that reducing conflict between work and familial responsibilities help people sleep better.

A multi-institution of researchers found that workers who participated in an intervention aimed at reducing conflict between work and familial responsibilities slept an hour more each week and reported greater sleep sufficiency than those who did not participate in the intervention.

"Increasing family-supportive supervision and employee control over work time benefited the sleep of hundreds of employees, and even greater effects may be possible if sleep is overtly addressed in workplace interventions," Ryan Olson, lead author of the study, said in a statement. "The Work, Family, and Health Network Study intervention was designed to reduce work-family conflict. It did not directly address sleep, yet sleep benefits were observed."

The intervention focused on the United States employees of an information technology firm. Groups of randomly selected managers and employees participated in a three-month, social and organizational change process that included interactive sessions with facilitated discussions, role-playing, and games.

Managers were also trained in family supportive supervision and self-monitored how they applied the training on the job. Data were collected through qualitative interviews 12 months after the intervention was introduced and by actigraphy, the measurement of individuals' sleeping and waking patterns using a monitor attached to participants' wrists. Actigraphy measures of sleep quality and quantity were taken at the beginning of the intervention, to establish baseline measures for participants, and 12 months after the intervention. Each of the 474 participants' activity recordings were evaluated by two scorers, who identified periods of sleep relative to each participant's waking activities.

The authors had hypothesized that both sleep duration and insomnia would be improved in the study's twelfth month; secondarily, they hypothesized that any improvement in sleep quality and duration would be mediated by employees' enhanced control over their work time and reduced work-family conflict assessed at the sixth month after baseline. Researchers created a statistical mediation model that accounted for the multiple temporal aspects of actigraphic sleep data and participant characteristics.

"Here we showed that an intervention focused on changing the workplace culture could increase the measured amount of sleep employees obtain, as well as their perception that their sleep was more sufficient," Orfeu M. Buxton, lead author of the study said in a statement. "Work can be a calling and inspirational, as well as a paycheck, but work should not be detrimental to health. It is possible to mitigate some of the deleterious effects of work by reducing work-family conflict, and improving sleep."

The findings are detailed in the journal Sleep Health

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