'As per my last email...': A good night's sleep stops you being rude online, study suggests

·2-min read
Confused businesswoman annoyed by online problem, spam email or fake internet news looking at laptop, female office worker feeling shocked about stuck computer, bewildered by scam message or virus
Irritability after a poor night's sleep may spill over into your work emails. (Posed by a model, Getty Images)

Passive aggressive emails may be a facet of office life – particularly if a shift towards at-home working causes comments to get lost in translation.

A restful night's sleep may help us stay on good terms with our colleagues, however.

Scientists from West Texas A&M University analysed 131 employees over two weeks.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, insomnia was linked to fatigue the next day, which then triggered so-called "cyber incivility".

Read more: Exercise counteracts health harms of too little sleep

Unwinding with a relaxing book, warm bath or soothing music at the end of a stressful day may therefore keep things harmonious from 9 to 5.

Sleepless young woman suffering from insomnia or nightmares close up, bad dreams, tired depressed female covering eyes with hands, lying on pillow in bed, feeling headache or migraine
Up to a third of British adults have insomnia to some extent. (Stock, Getty Images)

Insomnia is thought to affect up to a third of British adults to some extent.

Over time, a lack of sleep has been linked to heart disease, cancer and even an early death. In the short-term, many feel irritable the next day.

Read more: Prescribed sleep pills ineffective long term

To better understand how this poor mood affects our performance at work, the West Texas scientists had 131 full-time employees keep two daily diaries for a fortnight.

At 7am every day, the participants noted how they slept the night before. 

Come 4pm, they recorded any fatigue or cyber incivility – "rudeness or impoliteness enabled by technology". This may have included ignoring a request to schedule a meeting or making "demeaning or derogatory remarks through email".

Results – published in the journal Sleep Health – suggest "employees have more self-regulatory fatigue and thus engage in higher levels of cyber incivility at work after a shorter night of sleep".

Being "agreeable" lessened this effect, however.

Read more: Sleep for six to seven hours a night to maximise heart health

"Our findings build on previous research that suggests self-control is restored while people sleep, to the extent that after a poor night’s sleep, people lose their self-restraint and are more likely to engage in cyber incivility at work the next day", said lead author Dr Trevor Watkins.

Tips for a good night's sleep

People who struggle to sleep are advised to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends.

Winding down with gentle yoga or other relaxing activities can also help. Writing a to-do list for the next day may also calm a frazzled mind.

In addition, experts recommend people avoid screens – like their phone – for around an hour before bed.

Bedrooms should be "sleep friendly", with a comfortable mattress, pleasant temperature and black-out curtains, if necessary.

Keeping a sleep diary can help people link a poor night's shut eye to lifestyle habits, like drinking too much coffee or alcohol.

Watch: How to sleep better

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