How can working from home affect our sleep?

One of the biggest challenges for remote workers is ensuring that their sleep isn't affected by the change of working location – not just the amount of sleep they get, but the quality of that sleep too.

Jervise Penton

For many people, working from home – at least, in part – is now the norm, owing to the pandemic. What has surprised many employers is that there has generally been no negative impact on productivity, with staff working just as hard from home as in the workplace.

However, while productivity may be high and many relish the thought of not having to get up early to face the long commute, it's not all good news. One of the biggest challenges for remote workers is ensuring that their sleep isn't affected by the change of working location – not just the amount of sleep they get, but the quality of that sleep too. A lack of regular, good quality sleep can be very detrimental in our everyday lives, taking a toll on our mental health.

Here are three ways in which working from home can affect our sleep.

It changes the times we go to sleep and wake up

Without the need to get fully ready to leave the house or commute to the office, many people will find that there's less need to set strict times to go to bed at night or wake up in the morning. While it means that many people will likely be benefitting from a lie-in in the mornings, it can also wreak havoc with our bedtime routines.

If you know that you have a later start than “normal" in the mornings, it can be tempting to stay up later at night, shifting your regular sleep patterns. However, changes in sleep schedules can throw your body clock out of alignment and this, if it continues, can lead to health problems.

Lack of distinction between home and work

When in your normal workplace, there's a clear distinction between your personal life and your working life. Your day begins when you walk out of your front door to head to work and leaving your workplace signals the start of your personal time.

Working from home blurs this distinction. It can be tempting to work a little later because you're in the middle of a task, or to check emails quickly before you go to bed – even more so if your home office is also your bedroom. By failing to switch off, you could increase your stress and anxiety levels, potentially causing the levels of cortisol in your body - the hormone that causes stress – to rise. This rise in cortisol, as well as the unhealthy habit of being in work mode at all times, can make it hard to fall asleep at night.

Cabin fever

On a normal working day, you’ll typically leave the house, get some fresh air (no matter how little) and spend time interacting with other people before you head home. When working from home, things are very different.

Social interaction, fresh air and exercise are not just great for our mental health, they're important for a good night's sleep, too. This ‘cabin fever’ can impact sleep quality, so be sure to get out for a walk or a gym trip, maybe meet friends or colleagues for lunch or coffee and enjoy some fresh air rather than being cooped up all day.

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