Sleep in the Era of Telecommuting: Tips for Maintaining Your Circadian Rhythm
There’s no doubt that working from home, for those of us who have the option, is one of the safest places to be. The increased flexibility means we’re not only able to stay well, but also to spend more time with family or pets and lose less of our day to our old work commute.
But many of us are feeling the loss of structure. Even with a set schedule, days can blend into nights… and even if you’ve stayed perfectly on track, don’t be surprised if you catch yourself lying in bed unable to sleep. There are a few essential, regulating tasks our bodies need in order to maintain their sleep-wake cycles. The good news is that we can learn to provide them!
Routines, Routines, Routines
Chances are, if you’re working from home, you’re still waking up at the same time, eating lunch around the same time, and clocking out at the same time. But is anything cueing that shift to your brain?
Without a change in scenery, it’s easy for our hours and days to mush together. If you’re feeling sluggish or static, look for ways to give your brain a physical cue that your workday is starting and ending. That can be walking the dog before work every day, getting properly dressed (from the waist down too), or putting your workspace in a different room from your bed.
Get a Little Sun
September marks the end of summer and beginning of fall, and even here in sunny Arizona, our days are getting shorter. That doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of the sun!
Consider taking a walk on your lunch break, or starting your day with a sun salutation. And as it happens, that will also help you:
“Active” doesn’t need to mean “suddenly start a workout routine.” (Always ask your doctor before committing to anything strenuous.) What it means is that, what with getting to your car or the bus, to your office, to the break room, and back home, you once had to move several hundred yards in a day that now requires you to move maybe a handful.
Replicate that movement you lost by instituting a daily walk, yoga routine, or picking up a more formal exercise routine.
Regulate Your Blue Light Exposure
We can see your eyes rolling already, but it’s true: avoiding screens for one hour before you go to bed aids in healthier sleep.
Your brain associates blue light with the daytime. That means screens trick our brains into experiencing too-long days! Decreasing blue light exposure toward the end of the day cues our pineal gland to produce melatonin, a hormone that regulates your sleep cycle. Delay that decrease, and your melatonin production goes off-kilter—so of course it’s a struggle to sleep.
Try switching to different tools for late night de-stressing. Others have found success with coloring books, comics, and journaling, not just the good old-fashioned novel.
But we can be honest: Right now, that kind of limit doesn’t feel feasible to all of us. But if, for your loved ones or for yourself, you can’t step away from your screens: consider downloading a blue light adjuster for your computer, or turning on your phone’s night mode if offered.
It can be hard to keep time moving as usual while largely staying at home. However, healthy sleep can go a long way towards making you feel your best, which we always want for our residents. If you have some preferred sleep tips we didn't mention, we'd be happy to hear them in the comments!