How Burnout Can Affect Your Sleep

Work-related burnout is certainly nothing new, but since the start of the pandemic, more people are feeling stressed out, exhausted and overwhelmed than ever before. 

According to the Private Rehab Clinic Delamere, burnout can have a substantial impact on our sleeping habits, so we’ve asked Dr Catherine Carney to weigh in on the matter. 

“For many during the pandemic, the line between being at work and being off the clock was blurred, as more people were forced to work from home,” says Dr. Catherine Carney, a psychiatrist at Private Rehab Clinic Delamere. “Employees would juggle the commitments of personal life, family time and work all in the same environment.”

While some companies have returned to a ‘normal’ way of working, others are still facing increased workloads and high levels of stress and exhaustion. Burnout is the result of feeling overwhelmed, emotionally drained and unable to keep up with life’s high demands. 

Sleep deprivation is one of the most common indicators of burnout as more work and higher levels of stress often equal less sleep. In fact, according to the National Sleep Foundation, sleeping for less than 6 hours each night is one of the top signs of burnout. 

“Sleep loss can leave employees feeling tired, less productive and it can make it more challenging to stay focused on important tasks,” Dr. Carney adds.

But how does burnout affect our sleeping routine? 

Stress is a natural response to problematic and challenging situations, it can affect people emotionally, physically and behaviorally. A stressful lifestyle can put individuals under extreme pressure, to the point they feel exhausted, burned out and unable to cope, she adds. 

Burnout is a result of excessive and prolonged emotional, physical and mental stress. While the right amount of stress can actually benefit your brain and body, too much can make you tense, anxious and can cause sleep problems, or worsen existing ones. When we are anxious and stressed, our brains find it difficult to turn off and allow sleep to take over. 

Feeling stressed can cause the autonomic nervous system to release hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. High levels of these hormones, especially before sleep, can make it harder for the body to relax. 

This action is the fight or flight response, which helps prepare us for danger and navigate through a challenging situation. This increases the heart rate, causes blood pressure to rise and diverts blood from internal organs to the limbs preparing the body to take immediate action if necessary. 

“In a real stressful situation, this action is a great process for the mind and body, as it gives us the extra energy needed to handle the threat,” says Dr. Carney. “When we, however, enter the fight or flight mode, and there is no stressor to overcome, our bodies find it harder to relax and return to a normal state for sleep.” 

Tips on how to overcome burnout at bedtime: 

  1. Practice good sleep hygiene 

Good sleep hygiene is getting your body and mind into the best position to sleep well each night, following the same positive pattern. There are several things that you can do to promote good sleep hygiene, including going to bed at the same time each night, getting up at the same time in the morning and creating a relaxing environment to help you doze off. 

  1. Practice meditation 

Mindfulness meditation is an exercise that allows you to focus your attention and eliminate thoughts that overwhelm your mind and cause stress, promoting peace and tranquillity. In fact, research has confirmed that medication can prevent burnout and stress. 

  1. Exercise and keep active 

Keeping active and regularly exercising can give you a physical and emotional boost. Take a short stroll in the evening or spend 15-minutes stretching before bedtime. 

You don’t need to hit the workout machines to feel motivated and enthusiastic, it’s as simple as heading outdoors for some fresh air. 

  1. Journaling 

Sleep journaling can help to reduce burnout stress in the evening and improve the overall quality of your sleep. Writing down our feelings before bed helps us slow down, calm down prevent overthinking and put any challenging situations we’re facing into perspective. 

  1. Set aside time to wind down 

Take at least 30 to 45 minutes to wind down before bed. During this time, you should avoid activities that can cause aggravation, anything that might be stimulating, including using your phone, computer or watching television. 

By doing this, you will let your body know it’s one step closer to bedtime, and allow the mind to destress before drifting off. 

  1. Eat a balanced diet 

Healthy body, healthy mind. Eating the right food, drinking water frequently and keeping a balanced diet is one step in the right direction. Foods are fueled with natural vitamins and minerals that can give your mind and body a boost. 

  1. Limit alcohol and caffeine 

Having a glass of wine after a long day at work may feel good in the moment, but a small amount of alcohol or caffeine before bedtime can affect your sleep. 

Enzymes in the liver metabolize alcohol throughout the night. During this process, the alcohol will be circulating through the body, causing sleep disruptions and poor sleep quality. 

Photo by Andisheh A on Unsplash

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The Editorial Team at Lake Oconee Health is made up of skilled health and wellness writers and experts, led by Daniel Casciato who has over 25 years of experience in healthcare writing. Since 1998, we have produced compelling and informative content for numerous publications, establishing ourselves as a trusted resource for health and wellness information. We aim to provide our readers with valuable insights and guidance to help them lead healthier and happier lives.