I work in a practice in a shopping mall. I start work at 9 am and work until 9 pm for six days a week and sometimes seven. I have very little break during the day. I live on my own but go to bed late, as I need to have some time outside of work to myself. I feel depressed and tired all the time and am worried that I will make a mistake in practice. What should I do?

Sounds like you are working the notorious ‘996 schedule’: working from nine in the morning to nine in the evening, six days a week and sometimes even working a 997 schedule. Your job seems to have taken over your life.

It also sounds like you are sacrificing sleep to eke out some personal time. This is known as ‘revenge bedtime procrastination’. In other words a ‘retaliatory staying up late’ that occurs when people who don’t have much control over their daytime life refuse to sleep early in order to regain some sense of freedom during late-night hours. Some workers have stated that a few hours of ‘own time’ is necessary to survive.

While this behaviour is understandable, a lack of sleep will eventually result in physical and mental health problems. One study showed that 62% of adults worldwide feel they don’t get enough sleep, averaging 6.8 hours on a weeknight compared to the recommended amount of eight hours. People cited various reasons for this shortfall, including stress and their sleeping environment, but 37% blamed their hectic work or school schedule. Another study showed that some workers on have 2.42 hours per day when they were not at work or asleep, down by 25 minutes from the previous year.

Sadly, workers are caught between wanting to be healthy and wanting to steal back time, they feel their employers have taken. Many workers know that lack of sleep is damaging to health and that sleeping more could make them healthier and happier, but are often under peer pressure to do and achieve more. One expert has written ‘The shorter your sleep, the shorter your life span.’ Failure to detach from work can lead to stress, reduced wellbeing and burnout. Stress results in excessive levels of cortisol in the body and this can cause inflammation, which is the underlying source of many systemic diseases. Stress can also result in poor decision-making. Clinical eye care involves a lot of important decision-making.

Unfortunately, change requires the employer to shift and it’s difficult for individuals to react to their work situation. Consider talking to your colleagues and collectively approach your boss, with evidence, and ask for change.

If that doesn’t work then keep your CV up to date, look out for positions with other companies, use employment social media sites and your personal network to find new employment job opportunities and apply for them.

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