Research shows that loneliness makes it difficult to get a good night’s sleep. Since we spend the majority of our waking hours working, feeling isolated from our co-workers can affect our sleep (and our ability to cope with stress) in profound ways. Here’s what you need to know about loneliness, sleep, stress, and how to feel better:
The relationship between loneliness and poor sleep health has been well documented all over the world. A recent study of over 12,000 Norwegian students between the ages of 21 and 35 found that social and emotional solitude was linked to difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep. In a different study of more than 2,200 twins in England, researchers came up with the same result. Loneliness was associated with worse overall sleep quality and subsequent trouble functioning the next day.
Social isolation at work can impact the quality of your sleep.
Think of social support as a source of nourishment that the body needs to function, just like daily vitamins and minerals. When we are malnourished, our bodily mechanisms stop working properly, making it extremely difficult to be productive. These same principles apply to loneliness in the workplace.
According to a report from 2017, in addition to difficulty sleeping, people with inadequate social support at work have a harder time dealing with workplace stress. The effects of social isolation and sleep deprivation compound each other, leaving us with fewer resources overall to recover from stressful life events. It is impossible to separate feeling lonely at work from your life outside of work, especially when many of us spend the majority of our time working.
A massive survey conducted by Cigna just before the pandemic began asked over 10,000 adults in the U.S. about loneliness at work. More than half (53%) of remote workers reported feeling isolated always or sometimes. Meanwhile, 48% of in-person workers also said they felt isolated always or sometimes. These are staggering numbers from a workforce that was not yet disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. As we enter the final months of 2021, loneliness at work is at an all-time high.
Strategies for remote workers to feel less lonely and sleep better:
Use your flexible schedule to your advantage. Build time into your workday to do something social, bonus points if it gets your body moving too. It could be meeting a friend for lunch, taking a group exercise class, or walking through the park. Keep in mind that exercising during the workday improves mood, productivity, and makes it easier to sleep at night.
Make after work plans and actually keep them. Unfortunately, working from home often means losing sight of the separation between your work life and your personal life. Scheduling plans for after work hours allows you to draw a clear line between the two, and spend some much-needed time socializing.
Leave your home at least once every day. Even if it’s as simple as taking a walk around the block, grabbing a coffee, or going to the grocery store—getting out of your home office is crucial. Being surrounded by other people, even if you’re not necessarily speaking, will remind you that you’re part of a community. The change of scenery also provides a nice mental refresh, making it easier to dive back into work when you return.
Trouble sleeping? Research shows that loneliness is associated with poor sleep health, and remote work is especially lonely. This week, learn about the relationship between social isolation at work, stress, sleep, and how to cope.