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J Sleep Res. 2013 Feb;22(1):50-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2869.2012.01034.x. Epub 2012 Jul 27.

Stress vulnerability and the effects of moderate daily stress on sleep polysomnography and subjective sleepiness.

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Stress Research Institute, University of Stockholm and Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.


The purpose of this study was to investigate if and how sleep physiology is affected by naturally occurring high work stress and identify individual differences in the response of sleep to stress. Probable upcoming stress levels were estimated through weekly web questionnaire ratings. Based on the modified FIRST-scale (Ford insomnia response to stress) participants were grouped into high (n = 9) or low (n = 19) sensitivity to stress related sleep disturbances (Drake et al., 2004). Sleep was recorded in 28 teachers with polysomnography, sleep diaries and actigraphs during one high stress and one low stress condition in the participants home. EEG showed a decrease in sleep efficiency during the high stress condition. Significant interactions between group and condition were seen for REM sleep, arousals and stage transitions. The sensitive group had an increase in arousals and stage transitions during the high stress condition and a decrease in REM, whereas the opposite was seen in the resilient group. Diary ratings during the high stress condition showed higher bedtime stress and lower ratings on the awakening index (insufficient sleep and difficulties awakening). Ratings also showed lower cognitive function and preoccupation with work thoughts in the evening. KSS ratings of sleepiness increased during stress for the sensitive group. Saliva samples of cortisol showed no effect of stress. It was concluded that moderate daily stress is associated with a moderate negative effect on sleep sleep efficiency and fragmentation. A slightly stronger effect was seen in the sensitive group.

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