Making Sleep Work for You

A definitive item in the Maslach Burnout Inventory refers to feeling tired in the morning when facing another day on the job. The problem flagged by this item is that fatigue has set in before the day has even begun. While one can accept feeling tired at the end of a strenuous workday, feeling tired before even beginning is a clear sign that the recovery cycles are not working very well. Feeling that way once in a while, such as after an overnight flight from North America to Europe or after a late night wedding celebration is Not a sign of burnout. Feeling that way frequently is such a sign.

The quality of sleep plays a big role in the ongoing regular experience of being energetic or exhausted at the beginning of the day. For example, we found a strong correlation of nurses’ ratings of their previous night’s sleep with that item from the burnout scale. It is an immediate connection: poor sleep leaves people feeling tired; a good night’s sleep replenishes energy.

A recent New York Times article urged people to find the sleep pattern that fit into their personal rhythms. Some people are born early risers; others not so much. The research has also found that the decks are stacked in favor of the early risers. The workday starts early. In competitive areas of work, getting to work early can give an edge. Health care organizations are especially prone to starting the day early. In North America, financial services professionals on the west coast have very early starts to their day that is determined by the New York based exchanges. Late risers have more opportunities with the entertainment industry, but its options are scarcer.

Late risers are advised to spend more time in the sunshine. Doing so tends to set one’s biological clock a bit early. One bright spot in the near future is the time change on November 3. The whole world rests a bit easier after daylight savings time turns off.

Recovery cycles are essential for avoiding burnout and remaining engaged at work. To organize your life in ways that keep you on balance and build your resilience, you need to know yourself very well.

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