Journalist Brigid Schulte has just published her new book on America’s culture of overworking, the effects that culture has on our day-to-day social and family lives, and some of the things we can do to combat those adverse effects. It’s no great secret that Americans spend less time at home than workers around the world, mostly by virtue of the fact that we’re made to spend so much time in the office. On average, Americans work an astounding 1,700 hours every year. In other places known for economic success, namely Germany, workers average around 1,400 hours annually.
Now, whenever journalists and scientists bring up America’s chronically overworked population, the response is generally split into two camps: on the one hand, you have people calling for the reform of labor laws that would give Americans more time off, while on the other side, you have people telling America’s working class to suck it up and get over it. However, when you consider that, according to a study from Yale University, chronically overworked and over-stressed individuals have 20% less brain gray-matter than their healthier counterparts, it stops becoming a subjective, partisan issue, and quickly transforms into an objective health problem.
One of the Biggest Problems? Lack of Sleep
Among the biggest impacts of the stress that comes from working too much is insomnia. An estimated 70 million Americans suffer from a sleep disorder. Because work stress causes hyperarousal, a state which leads to an elevated heart rate, an increase of adrenaline production, and other factors that make it more difficult to sleep, people suffering from this type of stress quickly see the balance between awake hours and those spent getting the rest they need shift dangerously toward the former.
What Can Americans Do to Improve Their Condition?
Needless to say, the quickest fix to this stress-related issue is simply to cut back on your working hours. Unfortunately, unless you’re self-employed, that’s not really an option. However, there are a number of things Americans can do to reduce their stress, improve their sleep, and live happier, healthier lives.
- Take steps to make the bedroom conducive to sleep. Adding blackout curtains and removing your TV from your bedroom can go a long way in making it more sleep-friendly. Of course, you’ll also want to make sure your bed is comfortable. The right mattress can help you get a good sleep, but it’s also important for helping you avoid many physical health issues that may arise from a bed that’s too hard or too soft for your body type.
- Exercise has proven to be one of the most effective tools in the fight against insomnia. Regular exercise can make you more productive and alert during your workday, but it can also help stimulate the production of serotonin, a neurochemical responsible for helping you feel relaxed, at bed time.
How do you combat your stress from work? Let us know in the comments below!