Photo credit: Hayden Dunsel
I’ve had conversations with professionals who work from home from all over the world so I could understand some of the struggles with sleep. From newcomers who are just getting started to seasoned veterans who have worked remotely for years, I’ve learned that there are some unique challenges with sleep.
And as I continued to talk to more and more people who work remotely, I’ve discovered some patterns and common pain points with sleep. Here are three of them.
1. The flexibility of choosing when to work
One of the benefits of being a remote worker is flexibility around getting work done. For some, that can mean choosing their working hours or the location that they work from like a dedicated space in their home, a coworking center, or maybe a local coffee shop.
Here is how this flexibility was described in one conversation:
“Because I can bring my work anywhere and anytime with me, I didn’t follow a set schedule for work. Work can creep in even in family gatherings, dinners and even in bed.”
2. The trouble with “turning off.”
With a regular 9 am to 5 pm job, there is a distinction between when you are working and not working because you leave your home and go somewhere to work. The commute can serve as a sort of time to decompress. When you work remotely from home, the lines of work-life balance can become blurred.
Here is feedback from a remote professional about having trouble with winding down at night:
“Running your own business and working from home requires a lot of discipline to avoid sleep issues. It is all too easy to stay up late, working on the computer, when the office is a few steps from the bedroom.”
3. Unexpectedly waking up in the middle of the night
Occasionally waking up in the middle of the night is normal and isn’t something to worry over. Perhaps you drank a lot of liquids before bed, or maybe you had a stressful day. However, waking up in the middle of the night becomes a problem when it starts to happen frequently.
At that point, it is a pattern, and the side effect is that you wake up exhausted the next morning from not sleeping well. A vicious cycle begins to repeat itself where you sleep in because you are tired, feel guilty from getting up late, and then work later and later to try to “catch up.”
Here is how a remote worker talked about this challenge:
“I’ve been waking up almost every night around 3 am, and I have trouble falling back to sleep, so I usually reach for my phone.”
Recommendations on how to handle these challenges so you can sleep well each night
If you want to have restful sleep without feeling exhausted in the mornings, then one way to do that is to create a schedule as if you were working set hours, such as from 9 am to 5 pm. The other part of this puzzle is being aware of how technology, like the blue light from screens, can affect you. This awareness can be the starting point for making changes to reduce screen time at night.
“You want to fall asleep fast and wake up feeling good? Pay attention to your nighttime patterns and what you automatically do when you get up,” Charles Duhigg, a New York Times bestselling author, says.
Here are specific one-time changes that you can make today. You’ll see the benefits for a long time.
– Create a dedicated space in your home for work.
– Enable night mode on your phone to minimize blue light after sunset.
– Set up night mode on your computer. F.lux is an excellent option.
Next, try testing out these changes to find what works for you:
– Be intentional with your work schedule, so your hours remain stable from day to day.
– Use boundaries to avoid working on “just one more thing” late into the wee hours of the night. Personal time is necessary to relax and recharge for the next day.
– If you struggle with waking up in the middle of the night, then try deep breathing for a few minutes instead of reaching for your phone. Deep breathing also works for staying in control under stressful situations.
Keep in mind that this isn’t all or nothing. It’s a journey, so start small by changing a couple of things at the beginning. Then move on to the others later on when you are ready.
The toughest resistance and discomfort will happen across the first few days, and it’s also the period in which most people give up. If you are serious about getting a good night’s sleep and waking up refreshed in the mornings, then it’s worth the energy and effort to make some changes in your life.
I’m curious, which one of these challenges have you had the hardest time with as a remote worker?
Lorenzo is a freelance writer on remote work and has over a decade of experience as a remote professional. He covers topics such as the benefits, challenges, and surprises of working remotely.