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Work and Insomnia: Does sleep improve with retirement?

​ Researchers at the University of Turku discovered in collaboration with the Finnish Institution of Occupational Health, University of Helsinki, and  University College London Medical School that self-reported duration of sleep increased approximately 20 minutes after retirement, and stayed on the achieved level for years after retirement.

Duration of sleep increased especially for people who had had sleep difficulties or were heavy alcohol users prior to retirement. The duration of sleep increased the most for people who did not get enough sleep during their employment and they slept 45 minutes longer during their retirement.

– A sufficient amount of sleep is very important for our health and functioning. Individuals have different needs of sleep, but it is recommended for people over the age of 65 to sleep for 7–8 hours a night. Retiring enables people to sleep longer, as work schedules no longer determine the times for sleeping and waking up, states Saana Myllyntausta,whose dissertation research is part of the study.

During their last years of employment, different sleep difficulties were experienced by 30 percent of the people. After retiring, only 26 percent of the people were experiencing sleep difficulties. The researchers discovered that, of different kinds of sleep difficulties, people experienced a decrease especially in  early morning awakenings and nonrestorative sleep, where a person experiences tiredness and fatigue after sleeping for a regular duration. Sleep difficulties decreased especially among people who experienced their work as stressful and their health as poor before retirement. Sleep difficulties decreased the most for people who experienced psychological distress before retirement.

– For example, work-related stress is known to disturb sleep. One reason for the decrease in sleeping difficulties during retirement could be the removal of work-related stress, says Myllyntausta.

The study followed approximately 5,800 people who participated in the Finnish Public Sector study by the Finnish Institution of Occupational Health and who retired on a statutory basis in 2000–2011. The participants estimated their sleep duration and the prevalence of different kinds of sleep difficulties in surveys before and after retiring.
Retirement is marked by both positive and negative changes. Happily better  sleep is one of its benefits. However, these depend on a number of factors such as the nature of the job, income level, health status, social support, and reasons for retiring. For example, dwindling financial income may be associated with stress which may also impair sleep. Giving attention to one’s  lifestyle choices before retirement may pave way for a healthier life in late life.
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