Teleconference calls in yoga pants, meandering into the kitchen for a snack and then back into bed to finish writing an article, sendingsome emails, or posting on social media has blurred the lines between home andwork life.

Sure, working from home in pajamas can be a great work perk and it has been touted as beneficial to our mental health to have that flexibility. But is it really?

What effect is working from home having on our sleep?


Regardless of work schedule or environment, or perhaps largely due to it, Americans are one of the most sleep-deprived nations ofpeople.

Two things factor into Americans ability to attain restorative sleep: quantity of hours slept and quality of sleep.

Traditionally physicians focused on emphasizing the number: “You need 7-8 hours of sleep each night” they would counsel patients. The truth is that if you are tossing and turning, waking up or snoring excessively for much of that time, your sleep is not restorative to your body and mind. This is why almost half of Americans surveyed are reporting that their sleep in insufficient or poor quality.

Why does this matter?

Lack of good quality sleep not only leads to the most evident things like fatigue and cognitive slowing during the day, but also growth stunting in children, increased levels of stress hormones, increased risk of early death from heart attack, impaired immune function, and exacerbation of mental disorders, amongst many other impairments in normal physiologic functioning.

We are quite literally a nation and generation of Americans killing ourselves by shortening one night after the other, due to competing work demands, and unchecked anxiety and sleep disorders that prevent us from relaxing appropriately.


According to a Gallup Poll in 2015, it is estimated that 37% of the US workforce now works remotely at least one day per week. In the next decade, hiring managers anticipate that up to 38% of their full-time workforce, by then primarily composed of millennials, will be working remotely. We are seeing a shift in companies moving to remote work policies, to cut back on office costs, employee commute times, and to provide more flexibility for employees.

It is tempting when work times are flexible, and you don’t have to schlep to an office the next day to spend the whole evening binge-watching Netflix, wake up later, and work whenever you like. Those working remotely are increasingly blurring the lines between work life and home life. According to a Gallup poll in 2014, 51% of younger US employees are checking their work email at home. We are not doing a great job of setting boundaries between work and home-life, designating home offices and work hours, or utilizing co-working spaces effectively.

Unfortunately, we don’t have large studies on remote workers’ sleep patterns to know just how remote work is affecting their sleep. And for years total sleep time has been the only gauge of sleep quality studied, although sleep disruptors, such as electronic devices, partners, mattresses and other conditions are increasingly being factored in, but showing weak and individual correlations thus far.


Following are some sleep and health recommendations for those working remotely.

  • Apps

Applications remote workers can install on their computers such as Flux, help by decreasing the blue backlight emitted by a computer display. As the day goes on the computer emits less blue light, appropriately signaling the pineal gland in the brain that night is approaching. In the age where we are constantly bombarded with technological devices lit with bright screens, it is easy to disrupt our circadian rhythms by not only stimulating our brains with the content presenton the screen, but also simply by virtue of the artificial light present.

  • Regular Sleep Routine

It is also pertinent that remote workers try as best they can to establish a normal routine. Wake around the same time every day and go to bed around the same time. This includes trying to regulate travel as best you can. If travel is required for your work, try to find a routine that grounds you and tells your brain, “ok now it’s time to go to sleep” or “now it is time to wake up.” Drinking a soothing tea before bed, doing some stretching, or affirmations and breathing exercises can replace scrolling social media right before bed. Similarly, beginning the day with visualization exercises,meditation, journaling, or listening to music or a motivational podcast can wake you up and signal your mind it is time to get to work.

  • Exercise

From a purely physiologic standpoint, the optimal time to exercise is first thing in the morning. You receive a spike in cortisol, the stress hormone that gives you a little extra boost of energy, you will likely burn fat reserves instead of what you have most recently eaten, and if you exercise outside you get the added benefit of sunlight jumpstarting your circadian clock for the day, as well as boosting your mood. No matter the time though, the most effective time to exercise is whenever you will actually doit. Find a time and activity that suits your preferences and schedule.

  • Avoid Caffeine Late in the Day

As remote workers may be frequenters of cafes and coffee shops, it may be hard for them to deny their coffee addictions, but it is important to push coffee drinking to earlier in the day to prevent sleep disturbances. Consuming caffeine within 8-10 hours of sleep, generally after about 2pm in the afternoon can interfere with an individual’s ability to sleep. For some alternatives: switch to decaf, try tea,or get some more nutrients with a fresh pressed juice. If you are needing thatmuch caffeine to function throughout your day, then it is probably time tobreak the cycle and focus on your sleep quality anyway!

  • Do Not Sleep with Devices

Do not sleep with a TV on, or a computer or phone in close proximity.

It may be tempting to work in bed but don’tdo it! Not only is it a nasty habit that is hard to break and that preventsyour brain from fully relaxing, but working in bed provides terrible ergonomic positioning and can lead to back and neck problems as well.

Turn off all devices at least 30 minutes prior to sleep to allow your brain some time to unwind and adjust to getting ready for bed. The light and anticipation of consuming some exciting new content will prevent you from fully relaxing and falling asleep.

These devices can also be a trigger or reminder of stressful events or tasks that need to be completed. So turn your devices off, and place them as far away from you as you can stand.


All of that being said…. My experiences working remotely have taught me the practicalities of being a remote worker:

 I write and work when I feel inspired… be that day or night (It often tends to be night). Traveling means that I am often subjec to interesting work situations and end up working on couches or in beds, not ergonomically designed for work.

However, I do my best to try to maintain routine whenever possible and value my sleep. There have definitely been times in my life where I sacrificed my sleep for the sake of my studies, my career, and my to-do list. Now I make sleep a priority because I see the value that being healthy, happy, and well-rested has in my interactions with othersand the way that I lead my life. 

I know sometimes it may seem like there are not enough hours in the day and sleep seems like the easiest place to steal them back from, but it’s the most costly and will actually lead to you functioning less productively in every other area of your life. Work on “chunking,” prioritization, and other time management methods, but don’t sacrifice your sleep because although it seems like a gain short term, long term you’re setting yourself back.

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