#WFH (Working From Home) You might have seen this hashtag a lot on Instagram this year. Some people changed the hashtag to #WFB (working from bed), put it under their photo with themselves in their pajamas sitting cozily with a coffee in one hand smiling happily at the laptop in front. Did we start working from the place we sleep and sleeping at the place we work? The question that naturally arises next is whether remote work affects our sleep.
Does working remotely affect sleep?
Working from home provides us with more flexibility and control over our time. We can pick up our kids or dedicate some time to our hobbies with less problems and fuzz. On the other hand, remote workers tend to work longer hours to compensate for these breaks. This infringes on their downtime after work, which can lead to stress. Due to coworkers and clients in a different time zone, they might need to work early in the morning or late in the evening. Even with breaks in between, this change in work hours affects our overall daily routine, by extension our sleeping habits.
Not only time boundary between work and life, but also space boundary can become blurry. There are people who work from their bed. If you sleep in your bed, work in your bed, eat in your bed, your brain starts associating bed with all these things, leading to unhealthy conditioned behaviors. Just like Pavlov’s dog which started salivating when it heard the footsteps of the lab assistant who brings him food, your brain starts gearing itself up for work when it sees the bed. Use the bed for only sleep and when you are sick. Thus, people working from home should have their own effective boundary management practices.
Another problem that results in worsened sleep is difficulty switching off. When you work from the office, you walk or drive home giving you the prelude to your downtime, helping you switch off. At home, you might still see a paper here and there or see your computer, reminding you of the still unread emails, making your brain race. This might hinder you calming down enough to sleep. This is again a question of establishing a boundary of work and life. All these might negatively affect your sleep, making it harder for you to fall asleep and decrease your sleep quality.
How can remote workers keep good sleep hygiene?
- The simplest yet difficult answer is to be consistent. Go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day, even during weekends. Create sleep routines such as washing up, putting on your pajamas that would signal your brain to prepare itself for sleep.
- Be physically active. Even though your brain is tired from the mental job, your body might not have expended enough energy.
- Keep your workspace separate from the space where you sleep. Keep the work items out of sight, without reminding your brain all the tasks you have to do. If you cannot stop thinking about work, try writing down all your worries or must – dos on a piece of paper or try deep breath meditation.
- Keep away from all screens at least 2 hours prior to going to sleep. If it is not possible, at least do not forget to change your screen light to night regime.
- Person should fall asleep in 10 – 20 minutes after going to bed. If you cannot fall sleep, get up, walk around little bit inside your house and come back when you are sleepy. Do not associate your bed with the frustration of inability to sleep.
At last, set your work and life boundary terms and keep to them. If you are able to do that, you can benefit fully from remote work without encountering the difficulties.