back to article Most coders have sleep problems, need 'hygiene and care'

A study conducted among software engineers indicates that a high proportion of coders suffer from "severe insomnia" and that a majority have sleep problems of some sort, putting their mental health and "hygiene" at risk. According to the study authors, the primary reason for the sleeplessness of software engineers is that "job …


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  1. Steve 13

    generalise much

    The study used engineers at one specific local company as the subjects.

    It would appear that the engineers at this specific company have a high level of sleep problems, but what kind of academic would then extrapolate that across an entire industry?

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Look at the location of the company

      Capitalism in action. Nuff said.

    2. Yann BZH

      I call Bullshit!

      "The test subjects were 91 software engineers working at a Mysore-based development firm"

      That's hardly an unbiased survey. Shame on you El Reg for reporting on this obvious piece of trash.

      Mine's the one with a copy of the Daily Mail in the back pocket.

    3. The Fuzzy Wotnot


      Start asking the management and HR dept of said company, what on earth are they are doing to these poor sods!

    4. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: generalise much

      "...what kind of academic would then extrapolate that across an entire industry?"

      The kind who can only get published in "Applied Research In Quality of Life". This doesn't just reflect badly on the authors. Their publishers are clearly desperate for material, too.

  2. Raumkraut

    Hypothesising Zs

    Here's my hypothesis:

    Most coders have natural sleep patterns which don't mesh with the "requirements" of the standard working day. There are many an anecdotal tale of developers coding late into the night. Perhaps the reason for that is that those inclined toward coding are also inclined toward being extreme "owls" - those who are most awake and functional in the late evening, and would preferentially sleep through most of the day.

    Forcing such people to be awake and at work during the time when their body expects to sleep is surely not conducive to a healthy and well rested individual?

    1. Ammaross Danan

      Coders, from a Coder

      As a programmer, I an attest to this hypothesis. Most coders I'm associated with tend to be night owls, staying up well into the night/morning. I, personally, do the same, but it is not related to any form of Insomnia: I just don't care to go to sleep. It's the problem of trying to cram 28 hours into a day. Coders tend to have side projects or personal interests that eat up a lot of personal time, and that's before the wife,etc enter the picture.

      As for the hygeine issue, it fits into the "not enough time" picture, but I actually tend to keep myself fairly well. Therefore, it's likely strongly coorelated to social ineptness. No friends, no wife, no life? No shower apparently. And there's always that one that clouds the room with that "musk" from their corner....

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      a title

      Nocturnal by habit, because software development is all about managing complexity and needs must hold lots of detail in mind at once. My working day starts when everyone else goes home because only then am I sure to be uninterrupted and able to put my mind to a complex task requiring concentration and attention to detail.

      Each year I go on holiday for a month, I don't touch a computer and I get up at dawn to make the most of that big blue room.

      It's taken years to get my employers to appreciate that I am most productive when they can't see me at work.

      1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

        Which WAI to the AIRevolution, ...... Crafted in Global Great Games Foundries

        "It's taken years to get my employers to appreciate that I am most productive when they can't see me at work." .... The_Noble_Rot Posted Tuesday 23rd November 2010 21:51 GMT

        Some Magic Apps Presented to them for Systems Deployment, The_Noble_Rot, would be an Astutely Active Assurance they are Unable to Plausibly Deny. The Greedy Gorge is easily Tempted with that which they Lack and would Feast Upon. Provide it with IT and they will Guarantee Delivery of Earth's Treasures for Heavenly Pleasures

        Do you have any Magic Apps for Mysterious Systems ......which Currently Regularly Cyber Blitz Colonies with Virtual Disinfectant and Sensitive Unclassified Information for Eradication of Dodgy Bugs MODifying Code with a DCoding Upgrade/Critical Command Source Rewrite Utility and Facility. .... A Fab Space Place.

      2. markfiend

        28-hour day

    3. David Hicks

      I wouldn't like to extrapolate from anecdotes

      But I 'suffer' from the same. Give me a block of time off work and I turn pretty much nocturnal in only a couple of days.

      Not that I actually like it that way, waking up late afternoon with most of the day gone and then staying up all night at the computer when the rest of the world is long asleep, it just seems to be what I gravitate to. I've always had trouble with mornings and get most of my best stuff done when everyone else has gone.

      I've worked with others like me, but I've also worked with the opposite - talented coders that are in at 7am every day, bright eyed and bushy tailed. Freaks!

      Thumb Up

      $0.02 for added value to this

      I work night shift 23:30-08:00 and during the day I am stressed out beyond belief and get no sleep on a "normal world 9-5 schedule". On my "Extreme Owl" schedule im in bed by noon, up by 22:00. So by following what my body wants, I get 10h+ sleep versus maybe 6 on a "normal world" schedule, maybe the coder does not listen too much?

      it also helps that my Social Life starts at 00:00 and doesn't end till 10:00 the following morning.

      The weekend has landed. All that exists now is clubs, drugs, pubs and parties. I've got 48 hours off from the world, man. I'm gonna blow steam out my head like a screaming kettle, I'm gonna talk cod shit to strangers all night, I'm gonna lose the plot on the dancefloor. The free radicals inside me are freakin', man! Tonight I'm Jip Travolta, I'm Peter Popper, I'm going to never-never land with my chosen family, man. We're gonna get more spaced out than Neil Armstrong ever did, anything could happen tonight, you know? This could be the best night of my life. I've got 73 quid in my back burner - I'm gonna wax the lot, man! The Milky Bars are on me! Yeah!

      9-5 is for the birds.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      this is a title

      I'd agree with this as well... I spend most nights now trying to force myself to sleep, around 12ish, when I'd rather be awake until 2-3am. I have unfortunately got to be in work by 9am now, and have to be awake by 6:45 to actually get there in time. Admittedly, I do sleep on the train on the way in...

      I do all my best coding in the evening as well, which is what the really annoying part is.

  3. Anonymous Coward

    endless demands, worse than a GF

    Oh, so you want me to write you a "lifestyle management program" as well huh? Sure thing I'll just add it to the list what is the business case, do you have signoff and let me guess, you want it done yesterday and for free...

  4. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

    Wow. 91 coders in a single company.

    Such a statistically relevant sample.

  5. Deebster
    Thumb Down

    "hygiene" != "sleep hygiene"

    'putting their mental health and "hygiene" at risk' should be 'putting their mental health and sleep hygiene at risk.'

    This report is not claiming that us coders are smelly (in this study, at least); it's saying that we have bad habits like using computers before bed and having erratic bed times.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      But "sleep hygiene"

      What is this, or maybe I dont want to know!

      1. The Fuzzy Wotnot

        What's hygiene?!

        ( Keeping IT 'old-skool'! )

      2. tim-e

        sleep hygiene

        Wikipedia is your friend.

  6. Anonymous Coward

    Fatuous research 101

    Link goes to paid content.

    We're supposed to pay 34 euros to find out that software engineers in Indian companies are overworked, underpaid and stressed out.

    If you send me 5 euros I'll tell you where bacon comes from.

    1. Lottie

      The principality of baconia!

      I believe in free information!

      1. maclovinz


        "I believe in free information!"

        You must be SOCIALIST!

        Ah...I HATE this side of the pond...... sigh....

      2. Yann BZH


        Kevin's from Philadelphia!


        1. maclovinz


          Yeah, it was a joke, b/c people that want free and open information and common playing ground for all are called Socialists.

          Mind you, by people that don't know the meaning of it! XD

          1. Paul 4

            I demand

            Open source bacon! Penguin bacon? Banux!

  7. Si 1

    Sleep hygiene?

    That's right, tell them they're unhygienic even when sleeping, that's bound to do wonders for their mental health problems.

    What the hell is sleep hygiene and why do only programmers fail at it? Should we be flossing in our sleep and wearing clean room suits to hide our dirty and sinful nakedness?

  8. techulture

    Late habits (Re: Hypothesising Zs)

    Speaking for myself, I find late hours at the office means less interruptions and better concentration. I don't think I have a different circadian rhythm.

  9. Lars Silver badge

    Nothing new here

    Most coders work for companies run bye idiots. I did that for 35 years.

    The most common stupidity is time schedules based on unrealistic optimism.

    No wonder coders are drawn towards open source, the only surrounding for producing quality code.

    1. Jimbo 6

      "Most coders work for companies run by idiots"

      So coders are exactly like the rest of the population then !

  10. Jon Double Nice
    Black Helicopters

    Sleep is pretty dull anyway

    I'd rather be playing COD BOps online, or drinking lovely gin, or doing my own code tinkering when I'm out of the office.

    Black helicopter because... the numbers! what do they mean?

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    "University of Mysore"

    Hey Lewis, you're a Great Comic !

    Next, we get pieces from

    "University of Vertical Takeoff/Rolls Royce"


    "Lockheed Martin Global Relations Institute"


    "Boeing Air Dominance Academy".

    Looking forward for good fun !

  12. maclovinz

    Admins, In General

    Show me ONE sleep-deprived developer, who CAN (and should) write code during the day, and I'll show you 10 admins who HAVE to work late nights/overnight, AND then be expected to show up the next day after 1-2 hours of sleep.

    1. BinaryDad

      Admins in general, are nice people.

      Oh, you poor wretched soul! Imagine having gone to University only to land a job as a tech janitor. No wonder you're so bitter.

      The simple fact is, most coders are up late anyway having to work just like poor over stressed Admins. Poor project management or poor personal time management and a lack of social skills are the main cause of this though.

      There is also the catch 22 situation that a lot of coders find themselves in. The day has only so many hours, but there are so many things that they want to do with that time. By our very nature, our brains are constantly whirling around and around, thinking about all the neat problems we could solve with code and sleep sort of gets in the way of actually doing that.

      There are also the coders who just sit up all night watching porn, or playing Wow but we have a name for those miscreants; Java Coders.

      1. maclovinz


        ROFL, not really a poor wretched soul, just tired. And, I spend time developing as well, as we admins have to also do some of the same things you "coding-types" do, on top of everything else. we have to deal with.

        "Tech janitor", really?? Since most of those "coding"/development jobs have been shipped overseas....

        So, admins don't have a "so many hours" situation as well? Really?

        In my (actual) experience, when developing in ANY way, shape or form, you are not working on a LIVE system. This means that it is a system that is not in use during standard business hours.

        Yes, I understand the wheel turning in the head, but if anyone has that syndrome, it would be us sysadmins/netadmins.

        We can't pass the blame like programmers do either, saying that it must be "over"-configuration, etc. Yes, that's actually been used on me by multiple programmers I deal with. And, then I proceed to tell them exactly how their software WORKS. And, then I tell them how it should work. They tell me it's the machine's fault, I show then exactly when it was working last, then show them when they logged in last to make changes, then show them the time it stopped working....huh, funny isn't it?

        Although I stilll believe admins have it far worse, I understand developers, in cases, have to deal with the same.

        I have to say the "tech janitor" made me laugh. I wonder who is considered the "Tech Elite". Simon might have something to say about that, too!

        1. Pandy06269

          A response to your comment

          I'm not getting into the debate of who has it worse - programmers or admins (because I've actually done both jobs and know that each has its own pressures) but I'd like to respond to some of your constructive arguments:

          "In my (actual) experience, when developing in ANY way, shape or form, you are not working on a LIVE system. This means that it is a system that is not in use during standard business hours."

          Except for when a system is not tested and pushed out to live, then the customer complains that it's causing business critical issues because they wanted it in live yesterday regardless of whether they'd tested it properly.

          There is such a thing as DR - if a live system fails, the DR environment should be able to take over if necessary. You can't correct a malfunctioning bit of functionality so easily.

          "We can't pass the blame like programmers do either"

          Believe me, I've seen so many more cases of sys admins passing the blame. "The server's up, but I can't investigate it any more than checking I can log in because I don't know what the application's supposed to be doing."

          "Although I stilll believe admins have it far worse, I understand developers, in cases, have to deal with the same."

          I have to disagree. In all the businesses I've worked with, the first point-of-contact for a frustrated client whose system isn't working is the developer. "The developer made it so they should know what's wrong." Most of the admins I've known only ever had to deal with the developers or the support desk.

        2. BinaryDad

          Oh dear...

          See, there you are bandying around your superiority to the programmers and all I can think is "this bloke must be pure hell to work with". I think you have issues, matey...there's nowt wrong with being a just means that you have to clean up other peoples shit, is all.

          No wonder your coders are blaming "over configuration". They must live in dread about that tit of a sys admin who gives them a lecture every time they have a problem and need to verify that it's not the system that's wonky, but in fact, their code. Because he's going to throw a spaz, and explain how their code SHOULD work without knowing the full requirements of the system.

          Thankfully, I don't work on stuff that requires live servers like that, I don't think I could deal with some Precious Paula giving me the verbal.

          I work in video games, and I've run into the same "precious ego must be handled with care" scenario with the guys that generate content. Sweet jesus...the number of times I've had to calm down some over sensitive 3d artist after asking "can I just check the data on your side first" when trying to find why the game breaks with their new art assets (or their art assets won't build, because of error checking).

          You know, some times we really are just ticking all of the boxes to try and find the solution to a problem as quickly as possible. We're not passing the buck. We're just doing our job.

          1. maclovinz


            "Thankfully, I don't work on stuff that requires live servers like that..."

            Well, now we know...and yet, your comments try to imply knowledge about such things...

            1. Additives

              Enemy of my enemy

              You guys have it all wrong. I'm a sysadmin that works closely with several dev teams. The issue IS often with the code, mostly things like untested code being pushed into a live system, but in most cases it isn't the devs fault at all. It's the business units.

              A typical situation goes along these lines:

              Dev: "We are deploying version x tomorrow"

              Admin: "I haven't seen this go through Change Management"

              Exec: "We need it today, tomorrow is already a compromise, just put it in"

              Dev and admin exchange a resigned look, knowing what is to come.

              -Time Passes-

              Exec: "Minor feature in Software version x isn't working"

              Admin: "Well we didn't have time to tes-"

              Exec: "But you are supposed to test everything that goes live, that's what Change Managment is for!"

              Admin: (sighs) "I'll get the devs to update the code to fix the issue, but it will take a week to code and test, at least"

              Exec: "Oh don't worry about the testing, it's already broken, we need this yesterday!"

              -Admin explains conversation to dev, complete with conversation re-enactment-

              Dev: "Sooo....Beer?"

            2. BinaryDad

              Little Napolean's

              I'm a programmer. I think I probably know enough to make comments on the article, instead of say, some tech janitor with a chip on his shoulder who occasionaly writes some Python or shell script.

              Look at it this way. You, are a service provider and it is your job to make the lives of your customers (that would be the actual developers) easier, not harder. With your apprent attiitude, you're only doing the latter because you seem to be suffering from a "little Napolean complex" and constantly berating your customers for getting something wrong.

              I've terminated or decided not to renew peoples contracts because of that sort of behaviour in the past. Do you think your employer will stand for it, if enough people complain?

      2. Robert Heffernan


        I take offense to that last statement... I DO NOT code in Java!

        1. sT0rNG b4R3 duRiD

          As do I

          Plays WoW. Does *NOT* code in Java. Unless absolutely necessary :D

          (Recently converted some code to Java. Ran 3-5x slower than c).

      3. It wasnt me
        Thumb Down


        Isn't "Java code" an oxymoron ?

  13. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Looking around, I can see he's wrong

    <via smartphone from a very boring meeting>

    None of the software engineers I can see at the moment appear to have any trouble sleeping.

  14. Peter Fox

    Useless study but no surprise

    It shouldn't be a surprise that mental athletes don't suddenly switch-on, run for eight hours and then stop. We sprint, rest, have terrible off-days caused by 'a virus' and do our best work when not being interrupted by others. It doesn't take long to discover that unusual (OMG abnormal!) periods of attempting to cut-off from the world and fanatical attention to detail are more productive and satisfying than for the average person.

    There are two key implications:

    1 Recognise the need for mental relaxation - Different people chill-out differently. An athlete uses a varied training regime and has rest and recovery periods.

    2 Expect unusual traits of inter-personal interaction and scheduling. What's important to them isn't easily understood by others.

    For a mental athlete 'stress' is not caused by hard work but by people expecting them to fit in with their sofa-led, chattering 'normal' and plodding lifestyle.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Gates Halo

      Inaccessible reference + Peopleware

      The author linked to pay-for content, I don't see how we can verify the conclusion, without wasting 34 Euros.

      Agreed, developers needs must be taken into account, to avoid sabotaging their productivity.

      A lot of these problems would be solved by managers reading classic books, like say "Peopleware", and subscribed to Tech Republic (free), so they know how to construct a suitable working environment, not stuck in the 70's, with just a 21st century gloss. If this was done it would help creative people, including developers, to concentrate, and not get fatigued or lose a chain of thought from avoidable distractions or discomfort. e.g. it can take as long as 30 minutes to get back to a higher-productivity "flow" or "zone" mind-state after some distractions.

      The anti-Java developer troll can stick his head back in the sand.

  15. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    Research? Wot research

    Many moons ago I came across an article that described people as A and B types, where As are at their best if they get up and go to bed early, while Bs are best up late and to bed late. I quite happily found I came in the B category.

    If I try to work an A schedule my sleep is crap, part of which is due to not having sufficient wind-down time, like I do if I go to bed at my normal midnight to 1am.

    1. maclovinz

      I understand...

      I HAVE to be here at ~9am, and they don't get it, that it would make MUCH more sense, for me to work schedule like 1pm-10pm, so I could knock out ALL this crap I need to get done while people aren't one, without disrupting sleep.

      They're so worried about WATCHING me, even though they can't see what I'm doing (I'M the one in control! jkjk). They just like to see that I'm physically here, no caring about what I got done. It's like I'm asking to pull a molar when I ask to leave a bit early so I can come back later to start a 14 hour process.....and then be expected to come back a couple hours after!

      But, this requires management to actually KNOW about managing people, and we all know how that works out...

  16. Bracknellexile

    Cause and effect

    So coders are poor sleepers, this is nothing new. However, I see nothing in this to show that being a coder makes you a poor sleeper, any more than being a poor sleeper means you're inclined to take up a career in coding.

    Why oh why do so many media articles these days (and occasionally the research papers themselves) imply a cause and effect when the research merely shows a correlation? It drives me up the wall!

    1. Daniel Evans

      Correlation DOESN'T mean cause?

      Reminds me of the "more people suffer from hayfever on days when more ice cream is sold - does ice cream cause hayfever?" example given to us by a maths teacher. It certainly stuck in my mind!

  17. Michael C

    This is simple

    Its not even so much about being over worked, not so much even stress. People who write code often have large chunks of it floating around in their conscious mind. They're constantly chewing on logic problems. More of their brain is active more hours of the day than most people. They also very frequently end their day with large amounts of unsolved problems.

    We sleep to take what we've learned during the day and convert that information into new brain pathways and permanent memories. However, the brain does not like to do that when it still has lingering questions or unsolved problems. This translates into stress, as the brain fights to solve issues, or sleep is imperfect and incomplete as the brain can not commit a lot of data.

    I usually sleep very well, but recently, I started working on a large series of shell scripts to handle processes. I haven't coded in a decade. Its about a dozen big scripts that work almost as a larger program would. A few thousand lines of bash. I've been sleeping terrible, having dreams about processes failing, errors unchecked, and then some really out-there dreams I can't even begin to explain... I had the same issues years ago as a programmer. Job was great, fun workplace, low stress, minimal hours, but just having all that logic in my head all day, I was worn out, yet I could not get good sleep...


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