Updated: Apr 17
Have you ever woken up to find that you have sent an email, made a phone call, or completed a task while you were asleep? If so, you might be one of the millions of people who suffer from sleepworking, a phenomenon where people work while they are asleep.
Sleepworking is a form of parasomnia, a category of sleep disorders that involve abnormal movements, behaviours, emotions, perceptions, and dreams that occur while falling asleep, sleeping, between sleep stages, or during arousal from sleep. Sleepworking can range from simple actions like checking emails or browsing social media to complex activities like writing reports or making presentations.
Sleepworking is triggered by a combination of factors, such as stress, anxiety, overwork, insomnia, and digital devices. These factors can disrupt the normal sleep cycle and cause people to enter a state of partial arousal, where they are neither fully awake nor fully asleep. In this state, they can perform tasks that they normally do during the day without being fully aware of what they are doing.
Sleepworking can have negative impacts on physical and mental health, productivity, creativity, and relationships. Sleepworking can cause sleep deprivation, which can impair cognitive functions, memory, mood, and immune system. Sleepworking can also interfere with the quality and quantity of work done during the day, as well as the ability to generate new ideas and solutions. Sleepworking can also affect personal and professional relationships, as sleepworkers may send inappropriate or confusing messages to their colleagues, clients, friends, or family members.
However, sleepworking can also have some positive outcomes. Some sleepworkers report that they have solved problems, learned new skills, or discovered new insights while sleepworking. Some researchers suggest that sleepworking may be a way of coping with stress or processing information that is difficult to deal with during wakefulness.
How can you prevent or reduce sleepworking?
Here are some tips:
Improve your sleep hygiene. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and heavy meals before bedtime. Keep your bedroom dark, quiet, comfortable, and cool. Follow a regular sleep schedule and stick to it. Aim for at least seven hours of uninterrupted sleep every night.
Manage your stress levels. Find healthy ways to cope with stress, such as exercise, meditation, yoga, hobbies, or talking to someone you trust. Seek professional help if you feel overwhelmed or depressed.
Limit your exposure to digital devices at night. Turn off your phone, computer, tablet, TV, and other electronic devices at least an hour before bedtime. Use an alarm clock instead of your phone to wake up in the morning. Keep your devices out of your bedroom or in a place where you cannot reach them easily while asleep.
Seek medical attention if you have any signs of sleep disorders. Sleepwalking is one of the most common causes of sleepworking. Sleepwalking is a disorder of arousal that occurs during deep sleep and involves getting up and walking around while asleep.
Other sleep disorders that can cause or contribute to sleepworking include insomnia (difficulty falling or staying asleep), sleep apnoea (pauses in breathing during sleep), restless legs syndrome (unpleasant sensations in the legs that cause an urge to move them), and narcolepsy (excessive daytime sleepiness and sudden attacks of sleep). If you suspect that you have any of these conditions, consult your doctor for diagnosis and treatment.
Sleepworking is a hidden threat to your health and productivity that should not be ignored. By following these tips and seeking help when needed, you can improve your sleep quality and reduce the risk of sleepworking.
Remember: work hard during the day and rest well at night!