Working from home can impact your sleep and cause disruptions to your day-to-day routine. To safeguard your nights, we speak to Pranita Salunke, Preventative Cardiology Specialist and Occupational Therapist and author of Vitality: A Healthy and Happy Heart, for her tailored tips.
What effect does working from home have on our sleep?
With many people recently thrown into working from home due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there have been several recent surveys on what this means for our sleep habits. According to one, 70% of people now report having two or more sleep disruptions each month – an increase of 37% pre-pandemic.
It’s no surprise. The global changes of last year have forced many of us to live our lives differently, with multiple family members working (or being schooled) from home. As a result, we may experience a range of sleep issues; from undersleeping or oversleeping, difficulty in getting to sleep, or waking up in the middle of the night wide awake.
As well as being exhausting, inadequate quality and quantity of sleep can lead to negative physiological effects, including digestive disturbances, and a weakened immune system.
The good news is that, with a few shifts in mindset and behaviour, these negative consequences are totally avoidable.
How can I sleep better tonight?
Seven to nine hours of sleep per night is what most adults should be aiming for. If you want to sleep better tonight, start putting a few measures into place right now to help you once it’s time for bed.
Have you stretched your legs today? One key factor in getting a restful night’s sleep is to make time to exercise or just get moving at least once a day. Start your day with 10-20 minutes of exercise, walking or stretching. And every 90 minutes during ‘office hours’, take a movement break. Better yet, work while moving. For example, join your conference call while standing up, or brainstorm for your project while walking in the park.
It’s also worth putting in place other good habits to help you sleep when the time comes. According to Ayurveda alternative medicine, the best time for sleep is between 10pm and 6am, so aim to eat a light dinner before 7pm, followed by some gentle yoga. Not a yogic master? The child pose is good for calming your mind and stretching your body – and can be achieved by almost everyone.
Just before bed, make time to quieten your mind and relax your body. Some people enjoy a regular practice of meditation to help them detach from the inner dialogue of worry and problems. Focus on your breathing or a simple mantra (“everything is fine”) and feel your body relax and your heart rate slow down.
If meditation isn’t for you, try journaling. By channelling your internal dialogue into the paper, it leaves your mind clear and your body ready to rest and repair. Don’t think too much about what you’re writing – just recall the day’s events and jot down anything that’s on your mind. My tip is to finish each night’s journaling by writing a sleep-positive intention: ‘Tonight I will enjoy a restful, good night’s sleep.’
Is there anything I need to stop doing?
Our lifestyle habits influence the quality of our sleep, so focus on controlling the things you do in the day that might impact your night time. Try to limit caffeine or nicotine after 4pm, avoid heavy, oily or spicy meals in the evening, and minimise intense situations or emotions (either in your personal life or on the screen) in the hours before bed.
And don’t let your work into the bedroom. Set up your workspace in another room if possible, or (if not), make sure to pack everything away at the end of the day, so your computer and files aren’t looming over you while you sleep.
What longer term habits can I put in place to improve my sleep over time?
Expose yourself to bright sunlight during the day and dim the lights in the evening as night draws in. Both of these things will ensure the efficient functioning of melatonin – the sleep hormone that regulates your body’s ‘sleep-wake’ cycle.
Are there any myths around poor sleep that you can debunk?
Don’t think you can burn the midnight oil and catch up on sleep later. According to a UK study, even short duration of sleep deprivation has a negative influence on your health.
What else could help me sleep better?
If, like me, you’re a light sleeper, you may want to invest in good quality earplugs to block any noise. Alternatively, you could try using white noise to block out other distracting sounds. Any low-frequency continuous sound can be used as white noise – from a fan in your room to a white noise app on your phone.