Staying at home and taking appropriate precautions to fight the spread of COVID-19 has led many of us to change a number of daily routines. Maybe for you that means an at-home yoga practice now kicks off your day; or, perhaps you perfected that sourdough recipe; or, maybe you’ve transitioned from the office life to the home-office life. If so, Zoom calls may have replaced your shuffle into real-life meeting rooms, and Slack check-ins have replaced water-cooler small-talk. But aside from dealing with those shifted social aspects of the workday, you may also be contending with compromised sleep if you’re working in your bedroom all day long.
We already know that the pandemic is affecting our sleep in any number of ways, whether with insomnia, nightmares, or difficulty waking up in the morning. In fact, according to an April survey of 2,700 people in the United Kingdom, nearly half (43 percent) report that they find it harder to fall asleep under pandemic conditions. And while you may assume that a close proximity to your bed after a long day of working from home would improve a rough relationship with dozing off (world’s easiest commute!), if your workspace is your bed, such really isn’t the case.
“I’m not a huge fan of lingering in bed overall, since spending more time in bed can actually worsen insomnia for some people,” Shelby Harris, PsyD, sleep-health expert and author of The Women’s Guide to Overcoming Insomnia previously told Well+Good. “The bed is for sleep and sex.” But what if working in your bedroom is the best choice you have?
Maybe you live in a studio apartment, where your bedroom is your only room. Or maybe you’re sharing a small space with a roommate or partner, and working in your bedroom is sometimes your only option. Or perhaps you have young children at home and you find yourself working in your bedroom because it’s the only quiet space you have for conducting meetings and focusing. In these situations, should you just expect your quality of sleep to go down the drain? Well, not necessarily.
“Most of us are feeling more anxious than normal given the current COVID-19 situation, so it’s key you strengthen the mental association between the bed and sleeping. That means avoiding taking work to bed and any worries,” says UK-based sleep advisor Lisa Artis, deputy CEO of the Sleep Charity, a United Kingdom-based organization to promote sleep health for children and parents. But if you find your mind buzzing with work worries at bedtime because you’ve had no choice but to use your bedroom as your boardroom, Artis has some tips to help you snag the zzz’s you need.
Working from your bedroom? Here are 3 tips to make sure it doesn’t ruin your sleeping situation.
1. Grab that vacuum cleaner
“A messy, cluttered bedroom can affect you more than you might think, especially when it comes to bedtime. In fact, a study conducted by St. Lawrence University in New York revealed that a messy bedroom can lead to a poor night’s sleep and increased anxiety,” Artis says. Coming home after a long day and finding a mess is stressful enough, but living among clutter all day long during an already stressful time really doesn’t do you or your stress responses any favors.
“If your bedroom is crammed with junk, tidy it or reorganize. Sort the laundry, clear the piles of books away, and hide toys away.” —sleep advisor Lisa Artis
“If your bedroom is crammed with junk, tidy it or reorganize. Sort the laundry, clear the piles of books away, and hide toys away. A bedroom is designed as a place to rest and relax. While you sleep with your eyes closed, and therefore can’t see the clutter when asleep, it is the last thing you look at before you catch some zzz’s, which may influence any anxious or worrying thoughts.”
2. Put your devices to sleep, too
As much as you may like to scroll before bed, consider whether doing so is worth opening yourself up to the serious consequences your phone can have on your sleep. “The blue light that is emitted from these devices suppresses melatonin levels, affecting the time it takes for us to fall asleep. Plus, the content we are consuming may also make us more alert and stimulated,” Artis says.
The best way to combat this is to put your phone in another room while you sleep or charge it further from your bed. You could also make putting your phone away part of your nighttime routine and do something else (non-work based), like read, instead. Setting a bedtime alarm might help you accomplish this.
3. Set boundaries between work and sleep
Claim control over your time and set clear lines—mentally and physically—between your personal and professional life by silencing email notifications, and not responding outside of office hours. Remember, self care isn’t selfish.
“If you don’t have a spare room, then try to set up a designated office area in the bedroom. This could be a corner of a room with a pull-out desk,” says Artis. “Do your hours and avoid letting work creep into personal time. You can also cover your laptop or computer with a throw blanket so you can’t see it when you get into bed; make your bed first thing [when you wake up], so there’s no temptation to get back in and work there; change out of your PJs and put on work clothes when you wake up, because putting on PJs can be a cue for bedtime; and make sure you take a lunch break away from the bedroom.”
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