Why Working from Home May Mean You’re Getting Less Sleep

Illustration of an employee feeling tired at their home office.

It may seem counterintuitive in this new reality, in which more people than ever are working from home, thus eliminating lengthy commutes and late nights at the office – but it turns out that working remotely may actually get in the way of a good night’s sleep. A recent survey of newly-remote workers indicates that nearly 70% have found their sleeping patterns disrupted since beginning to work from home, with one in four claiming that these disruptions have been ‘severe.’ And while on the subject of disruptions, the Washington Post recently published an article tracking the productivity of parents working from home. The average length of an uninterrupted stretch of work time was just under 3 and a half minutes.

Working from home certainly has its advantages, like saving money on fuel and in some cases increased productivity (hint: when no kids are involved). However, it should not come as a surprise that remote work can and does wreak havoc on our sleeping habits – especially if we’re not used to it. Not knowing when the pandemic will end adds to this uncertainty and stops us from taking effective steps to remedy these issues. In other words, we’ve traded one routine for no routine, hoping we’ll get the old one back soon enough.

Ready to do something about it? Here are some reasons why you may actually be getting less, quality sleep while you work from home, as well as a handful of tips for getting a better night’s sleep.

A lack of boundaries between work and home

Say what you will about the traditional 9-to-5 office gig, but there’s no denying that working from home is a major disruption to our regular routines. The elimination of a morning and evening commute means that there are no longer those natural pre- and post-work boundaries built into our days. Similarly, working from home means always having access to your phone, e-mail, or other materials that can make it harder to know when to truly switch out of “work” mode, decompress, and be done for the day. This constant accessibility can greatly elevate stress levels and make it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night. What’s more, many people have been forced to use their bedrooms as a makeshift home office, which can further blur the lines between work and home, and make it harder to get a good night’s sleep.

Illustration of woman working from home sitting in a coffee cup

Excessive caffeine

When you work in an office, you might have a coffee in the morning to get your day started and perhaps again in the afternoon. Working from home, means unlimited access to your coffee machine – and if a dramatic increase in coffee capsule sales since the onset of the pandemic is any indication, people are definitely looking for ways to get their caffeine fix while working remotely. While drinking coffee at home may save you money by eliminating a $4 latte each morning, increasing consumption is not going to help you catch the quality shut-eye your body was used to. Caffeine is a stimulant, so if you’ve been making more trips to the coffee maker while working from home than you normally would when working at an office, you may find it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Inconsistent sleep and wake times

Sure, working from home means that you could roll out of bed 15 minutes before your expected start time – but should you? It can be tempting to stay up later than normal or to sleep past your regular alarm given the extra ‘found’ time that comes from not having a commute or perhaps not needing to spend the extra time getting “work ready” in the morning. However, this inconsistency in your sleep schedule is not good sleep hygiene, and can cause disruptions in how well you sleep at night. Similar to excessive screen time, an inconsistent sleep and wake schedule can throw off your circadian rhythm and can have a negative impact on your daytime functioning.

Too much screen time

Having fewer boundaries between work and home can also impact how much screen time we’re getting each day, which has been proven to disrupt our circadian rhythm and make it harder to fall asleep at night. While it can be tempting to eat lunch while staring at the TV or computer, put in extra hours on big projects, or to check your work e-mail just one more time when you lay down in bed, it’s important to know that this uptick in screen time can have serious consequences when it comes to sleep, including insomnia and restlessness.


Illustration of a happy working sleeping soundly on their mattress topper

How to get better sleep while working remotely

Thankfully, improving the quality of your sleep even while working from home is relatively easy. A little bit of awareness and some small changes to your habits or atmosphere are all that is necessary to ensure you’re getting an ample amount of good sleep so that you can wake up refreshed and energized to tackle working from home.

Stick to a routine

Even though working from home provides much more flexibility in terms of a daily schedule, when it comes to sleep quality, it’s important to stick to a solid routine. Keeping a consistent bedtime and wake time – and ensuring you get the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep per night – is key to guarding the quality of your sleep. Sticking to a schedule helps ward off insomnia and improves cognitive function, memory, and attention; these are all of the things you need to be successful while working remotely.

Set boundaries between work and home

When your home doubles as your workspace, it can be hard to really get in the habit of getting out of “work” mode at the end of the day – but this is vital when it comes to establishing a healthy relationship with work that can, in turn, benefit your sleeping habits. Work hard during the day, but set clear limits and stick to them. Make sure you’re getting enough exercise, engaging with your family and that you keep up with other activities you enjoy doing that are not work-related. This can go a long way toward reducing the stress that may be keeping you awake at night; it can also make you feel more refreshed and productive when you sit down to work the next morning and make you less susceptible to burnout.

Create a designated workspace

As comfy as your bed or sofa may be, research indicates that they’re not the best places to settle down for a long day of work. Working in bed actually tricks your brain into removing the mental association between bed and sleep, which can make it harder to fall asleep at night. If you already have a home office, stick to working in there and keep your bedroom for sleep only. If you don’t have a home office, consider creating a small space somewhere in your home that is for work only; furnish it with a desk or table and a chair so you can avoid stretching out on your bed and erasing the boundaries between work and sleep.

Limit unhealthy influences

Both screen time and caffeine are kryptonite to good sleep. If you find that you’re having trouble falling asleep at night, check your caffeine intake – are you consuming more coffee than normal while working at home? If so, try to cut back; stick to a cup or two in the morning, and if you must have coffee in the afternoon, avoid it if you’re within four to six hours of bedtime, or consider decaf or half-caff instead. The same goes for screen time: experts recommend cutting off screen time at least an hour before you plan to go to bed.

Upgrade your sleep environment

Working from home means saving money – after all, you’re spending less on fuel, lunches out, and even morning coffee runs. Why not take some of that extra cash to upgrade your bed for a more comfortable sleeping environment? It doesn’t have to be a brand-new mattress: a high-quality mattress topper, some new pillows, or even just new bedding can go a long way toward creating a more comfortable environment for better sleep quality.

 Although working from home can have a negative impact on how well you sleep, it doesn’t have to. Being aware of how remote work may cause sleep disruptions can help you identify the right steps to take to make sure you’re getting enough sleep so you can be well-rested and ready to take on each new day.


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