Quiet Quitting May Be Stunting Our Sleep


Written by Surya Milner

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At a Glance:

  • 22.1% of U.S. adults may be “quiet quitting” in their job, according to a survey.
  • Workers who are quiet quitting lose 12 minutes of sleep a night, or three full days a year.
  • Adults who feel overworked lose 15 minutes of sleep a night, and those who feel underworked lose four minutes a night.
  • 64.9% of adults report positive work feelings
  • 61.5% of adults report negative work feelings.
  • 47.8% of workers who are quiet quitting say they envision themselves in the same job next year, compared to 65.4% of all workers.

The 55-hour work weeks were adding up. Or at least they didn’t feel like they were paying off.

Anne M., who prefers to use only her first name, started her day with emails for her Chicago finance job at 6 a.m. and ended with evening at the gym, getting maybe six hours of sleep a night. 

Then in 2021, she “drew back,” working only between 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. without really caring about her daily tasks.

“I ticked the boxes,” she says, “and then I went home.”

Anne’s transformation recently has received the name “quiet quitting,” which refers to performing just the bare minimum at work and not staying or feeling engaged. 

It’s shared among 22.1% of folks in the workforce, according to a February 2023 survey of 1,250 U.S. adults by Sleep Doctor. Other recent polls have put the percentage of workers who are quiet quitting at 50% or higher.

Quiet quitting may seem like a defense mechanism for people who may be seeking the best work-life balance with their jobs. But survey respondents who reported symptoms of quiet quitting — feeling bored and unengaged, ready to quit, and only working for the paycheck — lose 12 minutes of sleep each night, compared to the average sleeper. That adds up to more than three full days of sleep lost per year. They also were less likely to fall asleep within 20 minutes, considered average, and 31.1% less likely to see themselves in the same job a year from now.

Meanwhile, survey respondents who reported feeling good about their jobs sleep 13 minutes more each night on average.

So job satisfaction may be tied to healthy sleep. But the reasons why may go deeper than simply staying sane at work.

Working Hard and Hardly Sleeping

Anne, 40, says her decision to withdraw created new problems, including tension with her sales partner. This added anxiety. She had a difficult time falling asleep at night and continued to sleep for just six hours each night. 

“There was a lot of uncertainty and stress,” she says.

This alludes to the connection between mental health and sleep, especially as it relates to how we feel about our jobs. Job dissatisfaction can lead to burnout, which affects 43% of female leaders and 31% of male leaders. It also can be a side effect of depression, anxiety, and poor sleep itself, according to Dr. Michael J. Breus, Ph.D., of The Sleep Doctor. 

The connection can work both ways: Negative work feelings can lead to less sleep. And sleep deprivation can lead to reduced job satisfaction or performance, including quiet quitting.

“If you were really sleep-deprived, then your motivation for work would go down,” says Dr. Breus, calling out research showing that "people who are sleep-deprived don’t put in as much effort and don’t go the extra mile.” 

So does bad sleep start with being overworked? According to survey respondents, the 18.4% of adults who say they feel overworked sleep 15 minutes less than average. Just 6.2% of overworked adults rate their sleep quality as excellent, while 26.3% rate it as poor. 

Feeling underworked doesn't help much either. The 3.9% of respondents who feel that way sleep four minutes less than average each night. Some 21.1% of them rate their sleep as poor, more than the survey average of 19.4%. 

Having a sense that you are overworked or underworked may be a sign of quiet quitting, and it may not bode well for these workers' mental health.

“It doesn’t mean they’re doing less, but there’s no more of that drive, that excitement, that energy,” says Melissa Milanak, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, South Carolina, and founder of MIND Impact Consulting. “Many individuals we see can become less emotionally engaged.”

'Am I Quiet Quitting Too Much?'

Many factors can cause workers to lose that drive or not have it altogether. Ashley Rowe, a 29-year-old former employee of a fast-food restaurant in northwestern Arkansas, says understaffing led to a feeling of burnout. 

“Once management started hounding me on my performance," she says, "my sleep went down to four hours a night.” 

Rowe says she'd lie awake one to two hours each night, wondering whether or not she would be fired or thinking about everything she'd need to do during her next shift. She quiet quit for six months. It didn't help her sleep.

“If you were really sleep-deprived, then your motivation for work would go down.” — Dr. Michael J. Breus, The Sleep Doctor

“That stress could make it so that you have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep,” says Dr. Breus. “You might be thinking, ‘Am I quiet quitting too much? Am I on the docket for losing my career?’"

Rowe isn't alone, as 61.5% of survey respondents reported at least one negative work feeling — from feeling tired (25.6%) and anxious (17.3%) to ready to find a new job (16.4%).

In 2022, Rowe did just that, leaving her position.

“I’m getting at least eight hours [of sleep] a day now and a lot better quality of sleep,” she says.

Finding the Sweet Spot

People reporting negative job feelings slept eight minutes less than average, according to the survey. But the 64.9% who reported positive work feelings — productive (35.1%), valued (21.5%), engaged (20.9%) — sleep five minutes more than average. Just about 39% of these workers fall asleep within 20 minutes each night, compared to 33.7% of workers with negative work feelings.

And yes, you can feel good and not-as-good about elements of your job. Anne, for example, moved to a different company after a year of quiet quitting. She still considers herself one of the workforce’s “quiet quitters” because she performs the duties listed in her job description and nothing else. But she says she now enjoys a significant separation between her work and home life, has cut her alcohol intake, and has lost 40 pounds.

“[Workers] can’t afford to not get the amount of sleep their body needs.” — Melissa Milanak, Medical University of South Carolina

Milanak says she sees clients who prioritize work-life balance and mental health above hustle culture, which can be different from quiet quitting. Finding that balance may depend on the individual. 

Recent research describes this as a “Goldilocks” effect at work: Healthy sleep and productivity increase when job demands are moderate, as opposed to too high or too low. 

The closest evidence we found among survey respondents was among adults who work traditional 40-hour work weeks. They averaged 30 minutes more sleep each night than the survey average. Just 16.7% reported poor sleep quality, compared to 18.8% of respondents who work more than 40 hours a week.

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If you’re still looking for that sweet spot and break out of a quiet-quitting mind set, Milanak advises setting strict boundaries between home and work. This may mean not working on evenings and weekends. 

"I tell my clients that if I left my car running, and I never shut it off, the engine light would eventually shut off,” she says. “[Workers] can’t afford to not get the amount of sleep their body needs.”


Sleep Doctor conducted the survey on the online survey platform Pollfish on Feb. 9 and 10, 2023. Results are from 1,250 survey participants in the United States who were ages 18 and older at the time of the survey. All respondents attested to answering the survey questions truthfully and accurately.


About The Author

Surya Milner

Contributing Writer

Surya Milner is a writer based in Chicago and a candidate for a master's degree in fine arts at Northwestern University. Her work has appeared in High Country News, Catapult, and elsewhere.

  • POSITION: Stomach Sleeper
  • TEMPERATURE: Cold Sleeper

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