How Work Stress and Anxiety Destroy Your Sleep

Truly leaving work at work is harder than ever. We’re submerged in a totally connected culture that ensures we receive work-related messages at all hours of the night or day. Add a layer of guilt, anxiety or fear not immediately acting on those messages, and you can find yourself working on evenings, on weekends, or even instead of getting some shut-eye.

But that’s not the only way work stress can destroy your slumber. Even if you don’t engage in any physical actions associated with work, it can be extremely difficult to shut off your working brain.

You may be taking home work-related baggage that resides in your mind – not your briefcase – that can cause even more grief than a pile of unfinished paperwork. This can include office rudeness, disputes with colleagues, confrontations with bosses, or simply a feeling of being overwhelmed.

Put all the factors together, and it’s highly unlikely you’re getting a good night’s sleep – or any sleep at all.

Work Stress Study

A study published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology found folks who tend to hold onto stressful or negative work experiences after the workday is done are more prone to suffer from insomnia that those who can shut down those thoughts.

Researchers reviewed survey responses from 699 USDA Forest Service workers, finding a solid link between poor quality sleep and high amounts of take-home workplace stress.

Workers who slept poorly, woke up several times during the night or were plagued with other insomnia symptoms were those who:

  • Frequently experienced workplace rudeness and discourtesy
  • Were prone to ruminating over the incidents
  • Were unable to leave workplace stress at the workplace to fully relax at home

The Vicious Work Stress Cycle

To make matters even more unbearable, people who were already perpetually stressed out about work would then return to work the next morning lacking quality sleep. Lack of quality sleep can make the workday even more stressful and full of anxiety, impacting:

  • Judgement
  • Mood
  • Ability to learn and retain info
  • Efficiency and productivity
  • Risk of accidents and injury

After an even more harrowing day at work, those same employees would then go home to ruminate about the incidents and suffer from yet another poor night’s sleep. And thus the cycle continues.

The Solution

The solution involves changing the way you deal with work and its related stress. For starters, don’t take any of it home with you. Physically shut down or silence your phone and other electronics, making it a rule not to respond to work-related messages unless you’re actually at work.

Relaxation methods, such as deep breathing and meditation can help transition from a stressful day into a relaxing evening. Another option is keeping a journal in which you vent about work stress every day right after work, getting all your stress and anxiety down on paper. Once free of the negative thoughts, shut the book and leave them behind.

Truly leaving work at work is going to require diligence and practice, but the reward of a good night’s sleep is well worth the effort.