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Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Your rude co-workers may be affecting your sleep (and your partner’s)
Author: Fiza Pirani, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Posted: December 17, 2018

Read the original story in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

New research from Portland State University suggests a toxic work environment thanks to rude, demeaning co-workers could be preventing both you and your partner from sleeping soundly. 

The study, recently published in the journal Occupational Health Science, involves survey data on 305 dual-earner couples in a variety of careers. It builds on prior research that has shown workplace incivility is associated with “negative work rumination outside of work as well as insomnia” but further examines whether such rumination is also linked to insomnia symptoms in an employee’s partner.

Workplace incivility, according to the researchers, “includes disrespectful or inconsiderate behaviors and comments that violate workplace norms of mutual respect, such as condescending or derogatory remarks, displaying little interest in an employee’s opinion, and ignoring.”

While the study found those dealing with workplace incivility tend to experience insomnia symptoms, including trouble sleeping or waking in the middle of the night, symptoms were most likely to spread to their partners only if they worked in the same company or occupation.

“Because work-linked couples have a better idea of what's going on in each other's work, they can be better supporters,” lead researcher Charlotte Fritz said in a news release. “They probably know more about the context of the incivil act and might be more pulled into the venting or problem-solving process.”

Fritz recommends couples in such positions continue talking things out with their spouse or partner, “but then they should make an explicit attempt to unwind together and create good conditions for sleep.”

The National Sleep Foundation recommends sticking to a schedule, practicing a bedtime ritual, avoiding naps, exercising daily, setting a bedroom temperature between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit and sleeping on a comfortable mattress. Find more tips here.

If your sleep troubles are getting in the way of your daily function or if you need additional advice, be sure to speak with your doctor or a sleep professional.

To help detach from work, Fritz also suggests meditation, spending time on hobbies or with friends and family. 

But organizations, too, should be doing everything they can to reduce incivility in the first place, researchers note. Workplaces can implement zero-tolerance policies or hold interventions to support employees, for example.

Limitations of the study

One potential limitation includes self-reporting bias. Researchers also note that because there was no previous research on the relationship between workplace incivility and partner insomnia, the findings “cannot rule out the possibility of reverse causation in which insomnia leads to experienced workplace incivility.”