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Why You Really Need to Stop Answering Emails In the Middle of the Night

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Photo: AntGor / Shutterstock

Waking up to urgent emails from your boss doesn't just suck—it might actually be killing you. Logging more working hours has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and depression. And people with high-stress, low-control jobs were 15 percent more likely to die over a seven-year period than those with less demanding gigs, according to Indiana University research.

That's not even considering the downsides of not logging quality shut-eye: Poor sleep has been linked to weight gain, heart problems, and decreased athletic performance. So, no, we're not being ~dramatic~ when we say that emails from your boss are causing way more than a headache.

On the flip side, people who log shorter workdays are more productive and engaged at work, as we reported in "A Six-Hour Workday Could Make You Healthier and More Productive." And they take fewer sick days to boot.

Of course, being on call 24 hours a day is simply a requirement for some jobs (we appreciate you, ER docs and firefighters). But the line between work-life and home-life is increasingly blurry now that emails have made their way onto our phones, and our phones have secured their cozy home on our nightstands. (Related: 5 Things I Learned When I Stopped Bringing My Cell Phone to Bed)

The problem is so real that New York City Councilman Rafael Espinal Jr. just proposed a city law that would make it illegal for certain businesses to demand email responses after hours, and a similar law recently went into effect in France. (Psst...here are 12 things you can do to chill out the minute you leave the office.)

While these are some good signs for the future of work-life balance, we're still far from having a similar law nationwide. And it can be hard to deal with a demanding boss who doesn't respect your boundaries. We tapped women with stressful jobs to see how they manage their managers.

Turn your notifications off, steal their strategies, and get your life back.

Set the standard from the start.

"I turn my Slack (a messaging tool) notifications off at 6:30 and never work after hours unless it's my fault for not finishing something sooner. The trick is to set the standard from the very beginning of a new job, so people know you don't respect unrealistic deadlines." —Emma, copywriter in New York

Make them ask.

"If your manager wants you to help with something after hours, make her flat-out ask you, so she knows you're doing her a favor, especially if it's not part of the job description and you don't get compensated for overtime. Setting boundaries gives you the power." —Leah, Ph.D. student in Pittsburgh

Don't submit anything on the weekend.

"Even if I'm working on something over the weekend or at night, I make it a point not to submit it until working hours. Sometimes I just want to get ahead on a project for my own peace of mind, so I don't want to set the tone that I'm available at all times. I don't get paid enough for that." —Lisa, marketing manager in Boston

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