Careers

Struggling to sleep? Here’s why your toxic boss could be to blame

Posted by
Lauren Geall
Published
backgroundLayer 1
Add this article to your list of favourites
A tired and stressed woman

According to a new study, your toxic boss doesn’t just have the power to impact your career and mental health – their behaviour could take its toll on your sleep, too.

It’s a sad fact that your boss doesn’t only have the power to shape your career – they can have a massive impact on your personal life, too.

It’s likely that most people will encounter one or two throughout their career. Whether they’re the type to bully and belittle or prefer to gaslight and undermine you, having a bad or toxic boss can and leave you feeling anxious and upset.

But having a toxic relationship with your boss doesn’t just put your mental health at risk – according to a new study, their behaviour could also impact your sleep.

You may also like

Have a bad boss or bullying manager? The research shows they’ll pay for it eventually

The research, which was carried out by a team of scientists from Oregon Health and Science University, looked at how a boss’s style of “sleep leadership” influenced the sleep of their employees. But what does poor “sleep leadership” even mean?

What is poor sleep leadership?

The first component of sleep leadership relates to how a boss talks about sleep in front of their employees. Have you ever heard a boss or senior figure boast about how little sleep they had last night? How they get up super early and don’t go to bed until the early hours? How they’re always “running on empty” but still manage to get the job done? Not only does this set a bad example for employees – and therefore discourages them from practising good sleep hygiene – it’s also likely to make people who do sleep seven or eight hours a night feel guilty.

Unsurprisingly, the second component relates to whether or not a boss promotes a healthy work/life balance among their employees. If your boss expects you to be checking your emails and consistently make yourself available outside of working hours, it’s going to be harder for you to switch off and relax – a problem which will ultimately lead to poor sleep. 

A woman struggling to sleep
Heartbreak: this is what happens to our bodies during a break-up

What did the study find?

To test this theory – which the scientists called the ‘WSN model’ – the team studied the behaviour of 180 workers and their 91 supervisors over a 21 day period. After asking both the supervisors and workers to describe the sleep leadership in their teams and how comfortable they felt discussing conflicts between work and non-work responsibilities, the scientists gave each employee a sleep monitoring device to record their sleep. They also asked the employees to rate their own sleep hygiene and sleep quality, as well as how much their sleep impacted them throughout the day.

The study found that employees who felt their supervisors promoted proper sleep hygiene – aka those who didn’t boast about getting four hours of sleep or ‘running on empty’ – were more likely to have good sleep hygiene themselves and were less likely to feel fatigued throughout the day.

You may also like

7 signs you’re in a toxic work environment – and what you can do about it

And although, contrary to the study’s predictions, those who said their supervisors promoted a work/life balance actually slept less hours per night, they were still more likely to have better sleep hygiene (aka regular bedtime and waking times) and felt less impacted by their sleep throughout the day.

Although having a boss who promotes a good work/life balance and prioritises their sleep might not always be able to improve your sleep, it’s clear that having a toxic boss who fails to display proper sleep leadership can have a significant negative impact on your health. 

Dealing with toxicity at work

Want to learn more about dealing with toxicity at work, including how to spot the signs of a toxic workplace, and what to do about a bad boss? Check out the articles below:

Sign up for the latest news and must-read features from Stylist, so you don't miss out on the conversation.

By entering my email I agree to Stylist’s Privacy Policy

Images: Getty

Topics

Share this article

Author

Lauren Geall

Recommended by Lauren Geall

Careers

3 simple (but brilliant) ways to deal with a bad boss or manager

To protect your self worth and your development try these three psychological exercises.

Posted by
Megan Murray
Published
Careers

Research shows your bullying boss will face the consequences

A gratifying study has found bad bosses will always get their comeuppance. This is how.

Posted by
Anna Brech
Published
Life

Got a bad boss? They could be turning you into a better one

There could be an upside to your awful manager

Posted by
Emily Reynolds
Published
Careers

7 signs you’re in a toxic work environment – and what you can do about it

Working in a toxic environment doesn’t just have the power to make us hate our jobs – it can lead to more serious problems including burnout and anxiety.

Posted by
Lauren Geall
Published
Long Reads

How to tell if your boss is gaslighting you at work

Three women share their stories – and how to spot the gaslighting warning signs.

Posted by
Moya Lothian-McLean
Published