The Relationship Between Burnout and Sleep

Posted by Darian Dozier on Jan 7, 2022 8:30:00 AM

The Relationship Between Burnout and Sleep

Burnout is a problem for many professionals, students, and anyone that experiences consistent stress in their day. Sleep can have a direct effect on burnout and symptoms of burnout can negatively impact sleep. By addressing both of these issues, you may either prevent or recover from burnout, as well as improve the quality of your sleep. Below is some information on how to improve both of those aspects. 

What is burnout? 

Burnout is a type of exhaustion that is caused by constantly feeling swamped and overwhelmed. It’s a result of excessive and prolonged emotional, physical, and mental stress. Many times, it’s related to one’s job, or career patent. However, burnout can be caused from from an increased demand in one aspect of your life that is causing you to feel overwhelmed. 

Signs of burnout may not happen immediately, but it’s a gradual process that builds with stressors. If you start to feel slightly “off” it’s time to do a self-assessment because the longer these symptoms go unaddressed, the worse they can become. 

Common symptoms include:

  • Feeling tired or exhausted 
  • Lack of enthusiasm, energy or motivation to perform daily activities
  • Alienation and social isolation

How sleep and burnout are related 

Many things contribute to these feelings of burnout, but one of them is sleep. Sleep deprivation, chronically sleeping less than six hours a night, is one of the best predictors of on-the-job burnout. Although it’s understood that more sleep is ideal, it’s often difficult to put it into practice. Most people would rather prioritize their to do list than to get sleep because they’re anxious about not being able to finish it. However, a lack of sleep can actually cause an increase in reported anxiety. 

Sleep is so important because without it, there are many cognitive consequences including memory, decision making, and creativity. There are also physical effects including physical health. Finally, sleep deprivation also has social and emotional consequences with mood and social energy. As you notice, burnout also has a lot of these same consequences. So by having both burnout and sleep deprivation, you’re on the verge of exploding every second of the day, it seems like. This is why it’s important to address at least one, if not both, of these issues and take some actionable steps to improve both of them. 

How to improve sleep 

Improving sleep can be difficult because there is a long history of bad habits that have contributed to poor sleep. Not only do you have to train yourself consciously to start going to bed earlier, but you have to train your body to be ready for bed at a decent time. There are a few ways to begin working towards this, but it’s important to remember progression over perfection. This means that it’s important to remember to that you won’t always get it right, and that’s okay. As long as you’re working towards good sleep habits, that’s all that truly matters. Some tips for getting started are: 

  • Going to bed and waking up at the same time. 
  • Avoid taking stimulants, like caffeine or soda, 4-6 hours before bed. 
  • Turn off digital devices so the blue light does not interrupt your sleep. 
  • Exercise earlier in the day. 
  • Clear your bedroom of anything work-related. 
  • Sleep in a gold, dark room. 
  • Develop and practice a bedtime routine to wind down and take your mind off concerns, work and plans. This can include a bath, a book, some tea, etc., anything that helps you to relax.  

How to improve burnout 

Improving burnout may be a little more difficult because there are some things you’re just not going to be able to control, like who your boss is, workload, personalities, etc., but you are not completely helpless. There are a few things you can do to help improve your burnout: 

  • Find ways to make your life more simple so you are not so busy. If you work with a career coach, they can give you information on how to live a more relaxed life. 
  • Practice resting throughout the day by listening to what your body is telling you. If you’re tired, pause. If you need a quick nap, find a way to make that happen. If you just need a mental break, then you should take one of those to increase productivity. 
  • Gain a fresh perspective by reflecting on everything you’ve done. It’s easy to feel like you haven’t done anything and feel anxiety. However, most of the time we’ve accomplished more than we realize. Taking time to reflect on that may reduce the anxiety and stress from thoughts that we aren’t doing enough. You can journal right before bed, or create a manageable to-do list and check off everything that’s done and use that as a reflection tool.  

If you’re having trouble managing your sleep and burnout, then you can either talk to a mental health provider or one of our sleep professionals. Please click the orange button below and take the free online sleep test.

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