insomnia and burnout prevention

Have you noticed that the worse your insomnia, the greater your burnout? The more burnout you feel in your work and relationships, the more you may find yourself waking up with anxiety in the middle of the night.

When you understand the different aspects of burnout, you can identify if they apply to you. Three components of burnout include:

  • Emotional exhaustion
  • Depersonalization: The feeling of observing yourself from outside your body, as if your life moves on a treadmill.
  • Reduced Personal Accomplishment: Perceiving that you just can’t work efficiently or do things as well as you know you can or should.

Burnout occurs when we feel mentally and physically exhausted. Experts advise that when we get tired, we should sleep. But have you noticed that your insomnia increases as your to-do list spills over at work and at home? Do you often experience sleeping disorders and restlessness in response to social and financial pressures?

Studies show strong connections between insomnia symptoms, job strain, and burnout. Because of these links, it makes sense that addressing one element can mitigate and reduce another.

The following two steps help avoid stress and lessen insomnia causes without totally overhauling your life or putting more pressure on your already busy schedule.

1. Avoid Insomnia Causes by Taking Short Rests Throughout the Day

Have you noticed that the more anxious, depressed, resentful, and weary you feel, the less you can concentrate? When emotional exhaustion sets in, and the harder we try to do our best work, the less we seem to accomplish.

While developing materials to help people overcome insomnia and other sleeping disorders caused by stress and lifestyle challenges, I’ve observed that we can support our core energy cycles and autonomic patterns in some simple ways that can dramatically improve stamina, sleep, and overall wellness.

All of us need to get the right kind of rest at the right times of day to lessen nighttime anxiety, allowing our systems to return to our natural rhythms. This process grounds us emotionally and decreases those feelings of depersonalization and reduced personal accomplishment. By creating little pockets of time throughout the day and night when we connect with ourselves, we think more clearly and feel more personal freedom.

Try out these simple steps:

  • Get in the habit of resting. Set an alert on your phone every 2 hours to remind you to take a break. Go into a bathroom stall, listen to music in your car, or take a few minutes to rest and relax even if you just chill out on a park bench.
  • Breathe. Close your eyes: breathe for two minutes.
  • Reconnect to yourself. Carve out a couple of minutes to connect your body and mind. This mindful practice reminds you in a practical way that you have reasonable needs, and can practice self care.

In my clinical work as a psychologist and sleep expert, I’ve observed that going on auto-pilot from dawn to dusk may be one of the underlying insomnia causes that has led to its association as a warning sign of burnout.

Taking short breaks during your workday and daily routine stops that auto-pilot and allows you push the reset button.

2. Lower Nighttime Anxiety and Burnout with Self-Love

The Buddhist term “monkey mind” refers to the unsettled, restless, uncontrollable chatter that may play, like an ongoing background commentary in our heads throughout the day. The more we do to focus and organize those thoughts, the more we tend to shift attention away from the monkey mind’s ruminations, judgments, confusion, and restless thoughts. Our to-do lists push us from one thing to another, like accomplishing goals, completing tasks, and keeping busy to give us a sense of focus and control.

When our adrenal systems shift from the waking/alert/doing mode towards bedtime, our bodies start releasing melatonin and lowering cortisol. For some people, nighttime anxiety commonly sets in in the evening hours before bed, leading to insomnia. Often, when the body starts to relax, all of those unfinished jobs and fears of not getting enough done surface, and bring more worry, emotional exhaustion, and, eventually, sleeping disorders.

In a vicious cycle, there is a deep correlation between sleep deprivation and nighttime anxiety. The less sleep someone has, the worse their nighttime anxiety and vice versa. This exacerbates the symptoms of burnout and insomnia.

To shut down this cycle, every evening:

  • Create a Healthy Dialogue with Yourself. Your unconscious is listening! When that monkey mind starts getting critical and harsh, redirect it. Say something to yourself like, “That’s an interesting thought. I like this one better….” And then give yourself a better option.
  • Make a To-Do List (for real!). In the early evening, write down a list of everything you have to do or that is distracting you. Store it somewhere outside of the bedroom. This can help reassure the mind that it doesn’t have to keep itself busy ruminating all night.
  • Reprogram that Monkey Mind. Try self-hypnosis for sleep and to strengthen the feedback system between the conscious and unconscious minds. It’s easy to learn and it helps the thinking mind stay engaged so the unconscious mind can receive deeper healing messages.

A Little Rest Goes a Long Way to Reduce Insomnia and Burnout

Sleep issues like insomnia and nighttime anxiety share certain key symptoms with burnout. Both can manifest with:

  • Physical and emotional exhaustion
  • A sense of disconnection from ourselves
  • A feeling of loss of control
  • Sense of not operating at your fullest potential

By taking short breaks throughout the day, you can push the reset button and set your own pace. It’s also easier to manage stress and “contain” your day with some simple self-care exercises. Reprogram your unconscious by directing your self-talk and your own self-hypnotic suggestions. Easy habits like these will help you transform burnout and insomnia while empowering you in the process.

Blog previously appeared on on August 25, 2020

Featured image by fizkes for adobe


  • Dyan Haspel-Johnson, Ph.D., S.E.P.®

    Psychologist & Hypnosis Expert

    Thrive Global

    Dr. Dyan Haspel-Johnson runs a private psychological and hypnotherapy practice with a specialty in hypnosis for sleep and other mind-body-spirit modalities. After receiving her BFA from Rhode Island School of Design, Dr. Dyan earned her Ph.D. in psychology while working in a physician's holistic medical practice. Her creative and science based backgrounds inspire Dr. Dyan's unique way of thinking about healing. Her approach led her to become the Vice President of Continuing Education Programs for the Southern California Society for Clinical Hypnosis, and then to become President of that organization while also teaching at UCLA’s Department of Psychiatry and lecturing at many other institutions. Dr. Dyan's expertise with sleep, and the demand in her practice to help people to sleep better motivated Dr. Dyan to make the complimentary, downloadable eBook and video, "The 3 Biggest Things That Cause Sleep Problems & The ONE Thing You Can Do by 3pm Today to Sleep Better." She has also created the Deep & Easy Sleep Self-Hypnosis Package, available through her website.