Work-related Stress, insomnia and eating habits

By Gisela A. Méndez Ciudad de Buenos Aires, Argentina

Translated by Lucila Agustina Norry from Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Stress is a physiological reaction that a body releases to face situations which are perceived as threatening or excessively demanding. When there is a stressor (a condition or event which causes stress), the stressed individual shows the need of facing the situation or escaping from it. This seems to be necessary for surviving, but the problem becomes more complex when stress is caused at workplace.

Work-related stress is an imbalance between the perceived demands and the resources or skills the person has to face those demands. At the beginning, the individual’s work performance improves as pressures increases, but when exceeding its maximum point, there is a negatively  physical and emotional response. This is due to the fact that workers feel that demands exceed the resources and skills they have to be able to face work-related challenges. Some observable signs of stress are:

  • insomnia
  • tiredness
  • lack of energy
  • fatigue
  • high blood pressure
  • headache
  • weight changes
  • anxiety
  • depression

According to the World Health Organization (ILO), work-related stress is one of the main health problems of workers and of good performance of the companies they work for. A stressed worker is usually more sensitive to fall ill, become less productive at their tasks and has less work security. Therefore, this would affect company success. A stressed body is tense as it perceives a threat and cannot have enough rest. A large part of the population suffers from insomnia. A stressed individual changes their diet habits in terms of quality, quantity and intake frequency. When they have positive emotions, they usually choose healthy food, and they choose junk food when they have negative emotions. Moreover, they usually eat more quantity and with more frequency. This situation, far from helping to solve the problem, exacerbates it.

It is true that stress can be managed by reorganizing tasks at work, relaxation exercises and psychological therapy or with medication depending on the degree of seriousness of the condition. Let’s see which food measures can be taken to face stress, overcome insomnia and improve work performance and well-being.

  • Respect Mealtimes. Divide eating habits into, at least, 4 meals and, if necessary, two collations
  • Avoid abundant dinners. “Have breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper.”
  • If necessary, take healthy lunch boxes to work. It is ideal to include fruit, vegetables, whole-grain cereals and pulses.
  • Avoid or reduce the consumption of stimulant food: methylxanthine like caffeine in coffee and sodas, theine and theophylline in tea, mateine in “mate”, theobromine in chocolate, are stimulant compounds which stimulate the nervous system and produce difficulties in falling asleep.
  • Consume food rich in tryptophan: the tryptophan is an essential amino acid (the body cannot produce it so we need to incorporate it through our diet). It is necessary for melatonin and serotonin formation, both substances which induce people to fall asleep. The tryptophan is found in its natural state in protein-based food of animal origin such as milk, cheese, egg, red meat, chicken and fish.
  • Include food rich in calcium and magnesium. Both minerals play part in nerves connections. Food rich in calcium: milk, yoghurt, cheese (skimmed products are highly recommended). Food rich in magnesium: whole-grain cereals, dry fruit.
  • Practice relaxation exercises: for example, yoga and meditation.


Let’s see in which way companies can also make a positive contribution from a nutritional viewpoint. Companies can include measures related to food provision and health in their policies. According to the size and room of the company, these measures can be the followings:

  • Offer appropriate time breaks to make workers have access to food.
  • Provide lunch services oriented to healthy food.
  • Give information sessions delivered by visiting professionals.
  • Provide appropriate counseling to workers on stress, insomnia and diet.






Translator’s profile:

Lucila Agustina Norry es Traductora Pública en idioma inglés egresada de la Universidad de Buenos Aires. Se dedica a la capacitación en idioma inglés de negocios y con objetivos específicos, principalmente inglés técnico, económico y legal, tanto en instituciones públicas (BCRA, CNV, Aerolíneas Argentinas) como en empresas privadas de primera línea. Brinda servicios de traducción en los pares de idiomas inglés <>español de documentos Comerciales (Contratos, actas, minutas, informes, estados contables), documentos legales (demandas, sentencias, escritos judiciales), documentos Públicos (Certificados, Diplomas, C.V.), documentos técnicos (manuales, informes técnicos) y sitios web.




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