'State Of Permanent Jet Lag': Work-Related Insomnia Affecting One In Five Aussies

One in five Aussie workers are experiencing work-related insomnia -- an initial sign of mental illness, according to a new survey.

The study of more than 5,000 workers also found that one in five currently experience a mental health condition, with 45 percent of those claiming they've been exposed to stigma in the workplace as a result.

Younger workers aged 18 to 24 are particularly at risk of stigma related to their mental health condition, while a quarter of participants reported 'high levels' of stress at their current job.

Margo Lydon, CEO of mental health promotion organisation SuperFriend told AAP that participants who reported insomnia said their work affected the timing and quality of their sleep.

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"People at work don't disclose when there isn't a culture of trust, or a good working relationship with their manager," Lydon said.

According to Lydon, poor job design, including reduced autonomy and an unreasonable workload, was another big barrier to establishing a healthy environment.

"If they're not well designed, it doesn't matter who you put into that role, they may typically experience poor mental health," she told AAP.

The annual report, Indicators of a Thriving Workplace Survey, also revealed an increase in the proportion of workers with mental health issues, up from one-in-six in last year's survey.

Chair of the Sleep Health Foundation, Emeritus Professor Dorothy Bruck said the insomnia-related statistics were consistent with similar studies.

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Bruck told 10 daily some other insomnia-related studies estimated the figure to be even higher at 30 percent, but added it all came down to the definition of insomnia that surveys use.

Bruck said the rise of casual employment and shift work can be linked to the rise of work-related insomnia.

READ MORE: What Is The Actual Difference Between Stress And Anxiety?

She said people who work irregular hours and routinely switch between early and late shifts often face sleeping problems because their bodies fail to get into routine.

"Sometimes if people aren't working on certain days they will often sleep in, and that can cause body clock problems." Bruck told 10 daily.

"It puts these workers in a state of permanent jet lag."

She said the rise of the internet and the expectation that workers are available into the evenings to answer emails and work on reports or projects, means more people are having trouble switching off when they get into bed.

"They'll still have [work] on their minds when they go to sleep," Bruck said, adding that exposure to blue light from screens decreases malatonin production, which helps trigger sleepiness.

"Working that late on things that are fairly taxing is not conducive to good sleep."

How Do We Get Good Ol' Shut-Eye

Bruck told 10 daily irregular hours can have the same effect as flying back and forth London on the body and on average it takes the human body about a week to recover.

She said the body actually recovers quite well with a bit of rest, but added that there were some strategies people can use to help avoid insomnia.

Experts recommend having a one to two hour buffer zone between finishing work and going to bed and said it's important people unwind and shut off from work before bed.

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But apart from encouraging people to switch off their electronic devices she said people can also benefit from maintaining a routine amount of sleep.

Bruck said while we usually link insomnia solely to lack of sleep, getting more than what your body is used to by sleeping-in on our days off or going to bed really early can also have a negative affect on our bodies.

READ MORE: None Of Us Are Getting Enough Sleep And Here's How To Fix It

She said a growing field of research is also linking levels of lighting in work places with our inability to get a decent night's sleep.

Bruck said workers in office-jobs who don't go outside much during the day are subjected to much higher levels of indoor light to maximise the level of alertness during their shift, and this can have an effect on sleepiness later.

In Australia, poor mental health has been estimated to cost the economy more than $12 billion each year, including over $200 million worth of worker's compensation claims, according to the Black Dog Institute.

Lydon said the 64 percent of survey respondents believed investment in workplace mental health and wellbeing would improve productivity, with 55 per cent of Australian workers saying it would also reduce sickness and absences.

More information on tackling insomnia from the Sleep Health Foundation can be found here.

With AAP.

Featured Image: Getty