Research finds your boss could be the reason for this major health issue

Toxic bosses can make workers’ lives a living nightmare.

The work environment becomes a battleground where you’re trying to skirt past minefields just to get to Happy Hour. Work becomes so toxic that it doesn’t even have an ounce of enjoyment anymore — and don’t forget about the boss that’s been promising you that promotion forever, yet somehow fails to follow through on their huge promises.

These pitfalls certainly follow you long after you leave for the day. They can harm you at home where personal relationships with others can be affected, and according to a new study, it’s harming the way you sleep.

Forget COVID-19 dreams or other interruptions in sleep: Researchers from the Oregon Health and Science University found that employees who get better sleep also perform better at work. Marjanna Sianoja and colleagues headed the study, published recently in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, where they identified two policies that workers may face in the workplace that can cause sleep deprivation.

As Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D. points out in her piece for Psychology Today, the first involves bosses who gloat about not getting more than a few hours of sleep per night.

“This type of “sleep leadership” sets a bad example for employees by downgrading the value of sleep hygiene as a contributor to overall health and performance,” wrote Whitbourne.

As she noted, this sets a precedent within a company and shows a sign of poor leadership because it can not only create self-guilt within an employee, but it also shows how unimportant health is to a company. On average, people should be sleeping at least seven hours a night, but if a boss is sacrificing zzz’s for more production, where is the healthy “work-life” balance?

That work-life balance is also the second bad example. A toxic work environment and a boss pressing for more production usually mean workers are expected to be on-call at all hours no matter when their shift ends. Therefore, that separation between work and home is no longer there.

The study itself looked at 180 workers and 91 supervisors in the Army National Guard in the northwestern US. Most workers were required to attend drills on weekends, which means they were still active. Participants were asked a series of questions regarding their sleeping habits and their sleep was tracked using devices over a 21-day period.

The findings found that employees who had stronger feelings toward their supervisors actually slept fewer hours, which researchers said could be due to factors not measured in the study. Other things like having children could contribute to this, as the sleep-tracking devices don’t account for those interruptions.

Turning back to the office, Whitbourne explains:

A toxic work environment, as represented by an unsympathetic boss toward the pressures you feel due to non-work obligations, can therefore interfere with how well you’re able to maintain a regular bedtime. You’ll also feel less emotionally drained as indicated by your levels of daytime alertness.

That second component of a toxic environment pertaining to the supervisor’s sleep habits proved, similarly, to be related to the two subjective sleep measures. Employees who felt their bosses exemplified good sleep hygiene slept more soundly and were less likely to feel fatigued during the day.

When you think about a toxic work environment, you’re probably unlikely to identify the way your boss talks about sleep as a key component. Yet if you’re chronically sleepy and feel that you’re going through more than your share of nighttime tossing and turning, it’s possible that the message your supervisor sends to you about the importance of this aspect of your health is taking its toll.