One of the benefits — and curses — of working from home is the close proximity to your bed.
Even if you don’t work from your bedroom, chances are, you’ve snuck off there between meetings for an afternoon nap or a quick TikTok break: 65% of remote employees have worked from their beds since the start of the pandemic, according to a June 2021 survey of 1,520 Americans by contractor leads service CraftJack.
But if you start to notice that you are struggling to fall or stay asleep, or your sleeping and working hours are becoming more erratic, your shared work and sleep space is likely to blame, Dr. Ilene Rosen, an associate professor of medicine at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania who studies sleep, says — especially if you work from your bed.
“The ideal association for healthy sleep is that your bed is for sleeping and sex only,” she tells CNBC Make It. “If you are not doing either of those things after 30 minutes, you should get out of bed.”
If you live in a smaller or more crowded space, however, you might not be able to avoid working near (or on) your bed. These tricks can help can help you maximize your space, get a better night’s rest and boost productivity:
Use lighting cues
Make sure your bedroom is well-lit during the workday — and not just bright artificial light. Exposure to natural light helps your body produce vitamin D, helps you focus and can even boost your mood.
More importantly, it improves our circadian rhythms and sleep patterns, she adds, which will help you fall (and stay) asleep more easily.
Dr. Rosen also recommends getting outside for a 15-30 minute walk before work or during a late morning/lunch break, while the sun is still out.
At night, your bedroom should be like a “cave”: cool, dark and quiet, as the space transitions from the office to the bedroom. “Those are the ideal conditions for sleeping well,” she says.
Blackout shades and fans can help cool the room and drown out ambient noise if needed.
Set clear boundaries
The brain easily creates associations between different experiences, Dr. Joshua Tal, a psychologist specializing in insomnia and other sleep disorders, says.
That’s why it’s important to condition your brain, with visual cues and routines as to when it’s time for work and time for bed, especially if you’re working and sleeping in the same room.
If you bring work into your bedroom, your brain and body might associate the space with productivity, which can make it harder to relax, Tal explains, or the opposite might occur, and you might feel sleepier working in the area your brain has bookmarked for rest.
Create a separate workspace from your bed, and try to put as much space between your desk and where you sleep as much as possible. Try room dividers, office furniture or a folding desk that can be hidden at the end of the day.
If you need to work from your bed, Tal recommends using a lap desk as well as different pillows and a different blanket from the ones you sleep with for work, “anything to indicate to your brain and body that you are in a different space. ”
“Even a folding chair and using the bed as a desktop is better than sitting or lying in bed while working,” Dr. Rosen adds.
Establish a nighttime routine
Whether or not you work from your bedroom, Tal and Rosen say it’s important to establish post-work rituals to help you unwind and switch from “work mode” to “relax mode.”
“The more that you create positive bedtime associations, the better you will sleep,” Tal says.
This can include cooking your favorite meal, meditating for a few minutes, enjoying a cup of tea, spraying essential oils under your pillow or lighting a candle before bed.
All of these activities create “a peaceful, positive environment” that tells your body it’s time to sleep, Tal says. “Plus, you’ll wake up more refreshed for work the next morning.”
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