Elfa Moraitakis found help in yoga.

Remedy: Elfa Moraitakis found help in yoga. Photo: James Alcock

Such was her laundry list of niggling work stresses, welfare centre manager Elfa Moraitakis would be wide-eyed at 3am each day, her mind in a ferment.

Worrying about elderly clients, funding submissions, deadlines and staff, she would "wake up already thinking about work. I became an insomniac … it was one of the worst periods of my life," she said. "All this stuff is piling up and we don't give ourselves the time we need to breathe like normal human beings."

Research by The Australian Institute think tank due for release on Monday suggests millions can relate to Ms Moraitakis' plight.

Initial findings of the report Hard To Get a Break? showed more than half of those surveyed were unhappy with their work hours, and an estimated 2.9 million lose sleep due to work stress.

The fifth annual survey conducted with beyondblue found the number of dissatisfied workers had grown since last year.

Rhetoric around flexible workplaces and the advantages of new technology often did not match reality, the study found.

"The current labour environment is creating high levels of stress, depression and poor sleep patterns for many Australians with adverse effects on their health, family life and relationships," it said. This undermined "the national goal for greater economic productivity".

More than 1400 people chose to participate in the survey, about 800 of whom were in paid work.

The amount of unpaid overtime workers ''donated'' to employers has also jumped from about $72 billion in 2009 to $110 billion - or almost eight hours a week for full-time workers - the report said.

While many feel overworked, the problem of "underwork" is also pervasive. About 28 per cent of people are working more hours than they want to, while 24 per cent want to work more hours, the report showed.

University of Canberra psychology lecturer Brett Scholz, who specialises in men's mental health, said those who felt under-utilised could become stressed or depressed.

"Some men who have been demoted, lost their job or suffered a workplace injury … sometimes they are sitting around feeling a bit superfluous," he said.

Ms Moraitakis, 47, of Casula, turned to yoga, Reiki and meditation to lower her stress levels and takes regular weekend breaks away.

Her sleep patterns have since returned to normal and her personal relationships have transformed.

"My family is so much happier because I go home and find myself … trying to pick them up with my positive attitude, which was very different a year ago," she said.

Thrive Life Education coach Craig Scott said workplace stress was "reaching epidemic proportions".

It could be caused by "bullying, feeling trapped or not living up to what they could be doing, or that it's all cut throat and there is no recognition for the effort they put in," he said.

The survey was released as part of Go Home on Time Day. The Australia Institute is encouraging workplaces to take part on November 20.