Have you been experiencing trouble sleeping? If so, has your work been stressful lately? More and more Australians are failing to take their much needed annual leave, as we become a nation of workaholics. This can lead to extra stress, which can affect your ability to get to sleep at night.
Why work stress is bad for good sleep
Our post on 5 Ways That Stress Affects Your Sleep outlines some of the ways that stress impacts sleep. Notably, it causes the overproduction of cortisol and the tendency to overthink — both of which keep the brain active way past bedtime. Work stress impacts your sleep in the same way. Work worries are a prime source of overthinking, with stressed out employees often ruminating about looming deadlines, accomplishing tasks, and upcoming performance reviews.
Your likely response to these stressors is also detrimental to your sleep. Often, those suffering from work stress find it hard to switch off, and have a tendency to keep on working even when they should be resting and sleeping. Medical News Today explains that those who work overtime at night report more frequent cases of insomnia as opposed to those who leave work at the office. But, it’s more than just wanting to stay productive. Mental baggage accompanies work stress, and its easy to bring it home. Those who can’t let go of negative experiences at work have been found to sleep poorly, experience symptoms of insomnia, and wake up intermittently at night.
Workplaces can also expose you to artificial light, and more work hours means more artificial light. This disrupts your circadian rhythm, making sleep elusive. A study in Physiological Reports notes how devices like laptops, smartphones, and tablets emit around 30–50 lux. That is enough artificial light to delay your circadian clock for a full week. That much artificial light can also suppress melatonin production, which is a naturally occurring hormone that is responsible for regulating and promoting sleep.
The need to ease workplace stress
A study on the link between stress and sleep originally published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology notes how difficulties in maintaining good sleep habits are commonplace among people in stressful jobs. However, both lack of good sleep and work stress are risk factors for lifestyle illnesses such as cardiovascular disease. This combination is likely to result in waning energy levels, if it goes on for multiple years. This underscores why companies need to take the lead in minimising stressors in the workplace.
One way they are doing so is by institutionalising wellness. Pain Free Working‘s article on the concept of wellness in the modern workplace details why corporations need to look beyond physical health and also consider the emotional and environmental factors that can affect the way employees respond to stress. That means offering more than just gym memberships or discounted yoga sessions. It could be a better interior design that allows natural light and fresh air in, setting more comfortable temperatures, or even letting employees personalise their workspace. More and more companies now are grasping this idea of holistic wellness and are tailoring their initiatives to make work more bearable and less stressful.
Get better sleep
So, can you sleep better if you’re stressed out at work? The answer is yes. Here are some tips to help you do it.
1. As much as possible, don’t bring work home. Leave it for the next day.
2. Establish a bedtime routine. Then stick to it.
3. Make your bedroom as comfortable as possible.
4. Stay away from your gadgets at least an hour from bedtime. Instead, read a book, play with your kids, or do some meal prep.
5. Find yourself thinking about work? Just write your worries away.
Please note: This article is not to be used as medical advice. Please consult a medical professional before using any sleep treatments. This post may contain affiliate links.
Alma is an HR consultant who specialises in office wellness. She is also doing research on the connection between workplace stress and sleep, and hopes to publish a book about it.