Technology was supposed to liberate us from much of the daily slog, but has often made things worse: in 2002, fewer than 10% of employees checked their work email outside of office hours. Today, with the help of tablets and smartphones, it is 50%.There are numerous research studies out there showing the overwork -- and the resulting stress -- can lead to all matter of health problems.
It impairs your sleep
A wide body of research has shown that overwork can negatively impact your sleep -- whether it's the resulting stress, the staring at the computer screen, or just not having enough time to unwind before hitting the hay. This can cause us to build up what's called "sleep debt," which is kind of like being overdrawn at a bank.
Chronic sleep debt raises the risk of obesity, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. In the short-term, lack of sleep can have significant effects on the hippocampus, an area of the brain involved in memory creation and consolidation.
The fact is, most of us get tired more easily than we think we do. Think you're one of those "lucky people" who can get by fine with only five or six hours of sleep? The Wall Street Journal reports that for every 100 people who think they're a member of this "sleepless elite," only five actually are. Only 1–3% of people can actually pull off sleeping five or six hours a night without their performance suffering.
It gets in the way of good habits
Working too much can take a toll on the body and brain in two main ways -- by boosting stress and by getting in the way of exercise, healthy eating, and other good habits.
For example, when you’re overtired, you rely more on caffeine to get you through the day, you tend to make unhealthy food choices and working out becomes a thing of the past.
A study in the journal Nature Communications found that when people are overtired, healthy food choices tend to go out the window for two reasons. First, it slows activity in the areas of our brains responsible for ranking different foods based on what we want and need. Secondly, it causes an increase in the brain's amygdala, which is responsible for controlling the salience of food. Over time, poor food choices can lead to weight gain and even obesity.
It's really bad for your heart
A long-running study of more than 10,000 civil servants in London found that white-collar workers who worked three or more hours longer than a normal, seven-hour day had a 60% higher risk of heart-related problems than white-collar workers who didn't work overtime.
Examples of heart-related problems included death due to heart disease, non-fatal heart attacks, and angina, a condition caused by low blood supply to the heart.
A follow-up study of over 22,000 participants found that people who worked long hours were 40% more likely to suffer from coronary heart disease than those who worked standard hours. What about overworking might be causing heart disease, specifically?
Research suggests that it might have something to do with your personality. In fact, the "Type A vs. Type B" personality test was originally aimed to determine how likely it was that a person would develop coronary heart disease. Considering Type A folks tend to be more competitive, tense, time-oriented, and stressed out -- which is often intensified by overworking -- their personality type is often associated with a higher risk.