If you’re beginning a new career as an entrepreneur or freelancer, you’ll probably have the flexibility to work from home. Remote work can save you money on fuel, give you more control over your work environment, and can even make you more productive—but it can also wreak havoc on your sleep schedule.
Fortunately, there are a few proactive strategies you can use to maintain a consistent, healthy sleep schedule.
Why It Matters
With the excitement you feel toward your new career, sleep might be low on your priority list. In fact, most professionals treat sleep as something that fills leftover space in the day—not something that needs to be scheduled as a priority. But the reality is sleep has a massive impact on your performance; according to an Amerisleep survey, 40 percent of workers believe getting a good night’s sleep is the most important factor in their career performance. The next-most important factor was avoiding interruptions, at 31 percent, but you’ll already have that down by working from home.
Why Remote Workers Struggle With Sleep
So why do remote workers struggle with sleep?
- Blurry lines between personal and professional. Working from home blurs the boundaries between work life and home life, which in some ways can be good—it means you won’t face as much stress entering the office, and can feel more like “yourself” throughout the day. Unfortunately, it can also make it harder to get to sleep. Instead of feeling the relief of coming home at the end of the day, your home will double as the office, and the stress from your day of work might linger well into the night.
- Constant caffeine. Most offices have complimentary coffee in the break room, which is perfect for perking up in the morning or pushing through that afternoon slump. When you go home, you’ll turn the coffee pot off. But while working from home, you’ll have coffee whenever you want, and it’s easy for your morning and afternoon habit to turn into an evening habit too—and according to the American Alliance for Healthy Sleep, caffeine consumption can seriously disrupt your sleep.
- Late-night screen time. When working from home, you’ll have a full office setup at your disposal anytime you want to use it. That means if you’re working on a big project or want to make a push for a new client, you’ll be tempted to work late into the night. Unfortunately, all that late-night screen time can interfere with your circadian rhythms, and make it harder for you to get a good night’s sleep consistently.
- Freedom and temptation. When working from home, you’ll have the freedom to handle your work just about any way you want—which means if you want to nap during the day, between work sessions, you can do it. According to the American Psychological Association, naps can be beneficial in refreshing your mind and body—but if you nap too much or too close to bedtime, it can keep you from maintaining a consistent sleep schedule.
How to Establish (and Maintain) Better Sleep Habits
So what can you do to build and maintain better sleep habits as a remote worker?
- Establish a consistent routine. It can be hard to create a strict routine for yourself when there’s no external authority enforcing it, but it’s the best way to keep your sleep consistent. Try to go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time every day, and schedule it so you get the nationally recommended 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. This will also reduce the likelihood of succumbing to the temptation of a late-day nap. While you’re at it, try to squeeze in some physical exercise.
- Draw a line. You’ll also want to draw a line between personal and professional, in multiple areas. Try to keep your work confined to one room of your house (to serve as your home office) and avoid doing work elsewhere. You’ll also want to stop working after a certain time; for example, you might stop yourself from working after 7 pm.
- Watch what you’re consuming. Your consumption habits can also play a role in how well you sleep on a regular basis. If you consume caffeinated beverages, keep them limited and restricted to the morning or early afternoon. When you have meals, keep them balanced and healthy, and try not to snack too close to bedtime.
You don’t have to fall victim to the traps of remote work. As long as you’re aware of the hidden dangers and weaknesses of working from home, you can take measures to compensate for them and stay healthy with adequate sleep.