Sleep Profiles and Burnout

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We’ve talked about sleep a ton and even touched on how our biology ties into our energy levels. New research added to this work by defining sleep profiles. While this research is fairly new and needs replication, it introduces an interesting idea. We typically look at sleep by the characteristics of sleep – sleep quality, sleep duration, when you go to bed, etc. However, this can vary from night to night for people. So, this research looks to see if there are specific types of people with differences in how they sleep.

Today, we dig into the sleep profiles the researchers found and how they are related to things like fatigue at work and burnout.

What are the Sleep Profiles?

In their study, researchers found 4 different types of sleep profiles. I outline them all below and their relationship with chronic fatigue and burnout. Unfortunately, 2 of these 4 profiles are associated with burnout symptoms. Thus, understanding your sleep profile can have a major impact on your well-being. Same goes with your teams! If your teams are struggling with burnout, talking about sleep is another tool to add to your tool belt.

Can you see yourself reflected in one of these sleep profiles?

Average Sleeper

The first sleep profile is the boring one! Basically, average sleepers have average sleep. In other words, they get a fairly normal amount of sleep, have an average sleep quality, and go to bed and wake up not too late or not too early. The way average is defined is based on the sample and some complex statistics – but what you need to know is that these sleepers are doing just fine.

If you are an average sleeper, you get around 8 hours of sleep, go to bed around the same time every night, and wake up close to the same time every day. You also don’t wake up much throughout the night and sleep soundly.

Average sleepers do not experience burnout and exhaustion due to their sleep patterns. If you are an average sleeper, you’re more likely to be doing well!

Short Sleep Compensator

The Short Sleep Compensator is the person who fluctuates between short nights of sleep and longer nights. They tend to sleep longer on Wednesdays and Saturdays and a little less on the other days of the week. These Short Sleep Compensators make up for those nights where they only sleep around 5 hours or so. Midweek and over the weekend, they sleep in to catch up on what they missed.

Interestingly, these sleepers are actually doing well too! They do not experience more exhaustion or burnout than the Average Sleepers. These catch up days help prevent fatigue.

Deep Owl

The third sleep profile is the Deep Owl. They go to sleep later than everyone else and tend to wake up later than the others as well. They sleep a little longer than the average sleepers and the short sleep compensators.

Surprisingly, Deep Owls struggle more than the first two sleep profiles. They feel more disconnected from work, make more mistakes at work, and experience some burnout symptoms. On the weekends, they actually go to bed even later. The researchers suggest this group may be comprised of those with a later chronotype. In other words, these people are likely night owls and, thus, are struggling to align their energy with the typical work hours.

To help Deep Owls, companies should try to provide some flexibility and autonomy so they can adjust their schedules to match their circadian rhythm.

Deep Owls seem to struggle with exhaustion and burnout.

Restless Erratic Sleeper

The final sleep profile is the Restless Erratic Sleeper. These folks tend to wake up more in the middle of the night and have worse sleep quality than everyone else. Their sleep quality gets better as the week goes on with better sleep over the weekends. But, overall, their sleep is worse than the other sleep profiles.

Unfortunately, this means that Restless Erratic Sleepers struggle with more burnout than the other sleep profiles. They experience more fatigue and exhaustion. Overall, their sleep hurts their well-being.

What can you do?

Research on these sleep profiles is still new. It isn’t clear how the workplace impacts these sleep profiles. We only know that different types of sleepers have different burnout outcomes. While we are still learning, there are things leaders and companies can do.

We know that leaders checking in on employee sleep can have major benefits for employees. It helps employees know that sleep is a priority. If your employees are showing signs of exhaustion or burnout, check in with them. Find out if they are getting enough sleep.

And, we recommend you re-familiarize yourself with the research on chronotypes and circadian rhythms. Help employees find ways to be flexible in their work hours. Can they take on easier tasks during low energy times? Can night owls start a little later and early birds start a little earlier?

Most importantly, leaders and employees should remember how important sleep is to well-being. Take care of your own sleep and help support those around you!

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