Since the COVID-19 pandemic, remote work has flourished. Prior to the outbreak, about 23% of workers worked from home. Throughout the pandemic, this number has risen to 71% and settled at about 59%. More jobs are offering remote positions as remote working seems to be more convenient and flexible.
This means that more and more workers are working from home than ever before. Although this is fantastic for many workers, it's creates an issue in terms of the normal daily schedule that used to structure our lives. This can include changes in sleep. Continue reading to learn how to get good sleep as a remote worker.
Remote work and sleep
Remote working sounds like a dream. No transportation, no going into the office, and getting to work in our pajamas. This can make it easier to take vacations, run errands, take care of kids, and all the other tasks that are made more difficult by going into the office.
However, going into the office established a schedule. Waking up at a certain time in order to get ready and get to work on time, and then getting off of work for some family time, dinner, and activities, before going to bed to do it all again.
Now, with the added flexibility, remote workers may not be getting better sleep. In fact, a study done in 2021 found that fully remote workers had higher anxiety, depression, and insomnia symptoms than in-person workers.
Contributing factors included:
- Loneliness and social isolation
- Increased workload
- Work-home interference
- Reduced physical activity
- Low exposure to daylight
- Increased exposure to blue lights at night
So, while working remotely seems like the most convenient thing, it, may actually be harming our ability to get good sleep.
Establish a sleep schedule
Remote workers have a lot of flexibility which means, more than likely, they go to sleep later and sleep in later than they would if they were required to go into the office. Although it sounds like this would lead to increased sleep, it may lead to decreased sleep quality, which in turn leads to decreased sleep quantity.
It's important to create and maintain a sleep schedule as if you were going into the office. This means going to bed and waking up at the same time every single day - even on the weekends. It's tempting to stay up late to finish that show, it's not like you have anywhere to be in the morning.
But going to bed at different times every night, and waking up at different times confuses your brain and makes it hard for it to establish a consistent schedule to release hormones responsible for sleep and wake. This can lead to nighttime awakenings, insomnia, and other sleep issues.
We underestimate how much physical activity we engage in when we go to the office. Even if you work a desk job, the process of getting ready and getting to your job, walking around there, and coming home is more physical activity than walking to your home desk and sitting there for hours.
It's important to establish exercise in your daily schedule. Not only is it good for your health, but it can help you sleep better. Exercise and sleep have a positive relationship where one can significantly help the other.
Even if you exercise or walk for just 30 minutes a day, that can have a significant impact on your cardiovascular health. HIIT workouts and strength or resistance training are also extremely helpful.
It can become very easy to become a recluse when you are a remote worker. You don't have coworkers that you see everyday, and you don't have much of a reason to leave the house other than errands. Therefore, it's imperative that you force yourself the socialize.
Go out with friends once every two weeks. Visit family or do a hybrid work schedule, if that's available. Loneliness creates more issues that smoking.
Therefore, socializing is vital to your health. Humans are social creates, and therefore, require social interaction with others.
Set work boundaries
Remote work has poor boundaries because you never leave. It's easy to start early, work late or odd hours, just because you can. However, this can lead to burnout, overworking, and the sense that work never ends. Plus, it gives your supervisor the idea that you are always available.
This is an easy way to feel overwhelmed, as well as mess up your sleep. Set work boundaries, and do not work outside of them unless you are being compensated, and you are not sacrificing other parts of your life.
If your contracted work hours are 8-5, then stick to those hours. Do not answer emails at midnight, or turn in reports at 3am. This interrupts your sleep and communicates to your job that you are available for work outside of your schedule. This can be a hard line to draw in the sand, but without the physical act of going home, there has to be a way for you to establish that you are done working.
Brightlight and sunlight exposure are so important. They jumpstart our day and release cortisol, the stress hormone. Cortisol is important for initiating many metabolic processes that take place throughout the day. Without the cue of light, this release can be delayed, leading to feelings of grogginess all day.
When you wake up in the morning, open the curtains and blinds, try to let as much natural light in as possible. If it's safe, try walking outside for just a few minutes to expose yourself to light. Sunlight is your best friend in the morning, and it's important that you get as much of it as possible.
When the lunchtime lull hits around one or two in the afternoon, go outside again. Light will help rebound the cortisol levels and help you finish out the rest of your day. Plus, a quick walk after lunch can help boost your metabolism and aid in weight loss.
Reduce exposure to blue lights
As a remote worker, a majority of work is done on the computer. This makes it impossible to avoid exposure to blue lights. However, late at night, it's important to try and avoid as much exposure as possible.
Blue light interrupts melatonin release. Melatonin is the hormone that helps get the body ready for bed. Without it, you may find it hard to fall asleep, leading to symptoms of insomnia.
At night, try reading or talking with friends and family instead of watching TV and playing on your phone or tablet. Any time away from blue light, especially near bedtime, can help regulate your sleep schedule so you have a good night's sleep.
If you are struggling with sleep, and think there may be an underlying issue,then please click the orange button below to take a free online sleep test and talk with one of our sleep health professionals.