Creating a home working environment that doesn’t negatively impact on sleep

Dr Nicola Barclay, University of Oxford Sleep Scientist, and John Tuton, Mammoth Founder, discuss the importance of maintaining that divide between sleep space and workspace. This is a particularly important theme for those discovering remote working for the first time as a result of COVID-19.

JT: So, I’m working from home now and finding that the boundaries between home life and work life are much more blurred. So, how do I switch off from work and create the right sleep environment? 

NB: Yeah, that’s a really important thing that we need to address now, and it is we need make that distinction between work and the bedroom more importantly. Not everybody has the luxury of a home office, some people might not have enough space in the kitchen to work from the kitchen table, some people may have to be working in their bedroom and that’s not a good environment to be working in. But for some people they have to be.

We need to make a way that that works. We need to make a distinction between the work space and the bedroom environment. If you can put up screens or move away all of your work related stuff: your computer . . . put it in a different room or hide it away at bedtime.

We need to make that distinction, when we’re in bed if we’re finding it difficult to get to sleep and we’ve been working in that same room the whole day we’ve built up associations for the bedroom being a place for wakefulness, being a place for work and, subconsciously, our mind is going to say, ‘Hey! It’s still time to be working if you’re in this environment.’ So, we need to close off any of those work arousal-related cues.

Also, we need to be quite strict with ourselves and have a time limit for when we’re going to stop checking our emails. I used to be the person that would check their emails the last thing before you go to bed, but it’s not helpful. You’re not going to be able to deal with that email very well because you’re tired, you’re about to go to bed, but you might then be starting to be awake and be worried about it, then the next day you’re tired, then you’re not going to be able to deal with it better then either.

So, it’s best to have a time in the evening where you think I’m not going to answer any emails or look at my phone from I don’t know, 2 hours before your usual bedtime. And that’s a difficult thing for a lot of people to do. But, if you prioritise your sleep, which I’m an advocate for, we need to prioritise our sleep because it’s fundamental for everything that we do in the rest of our lives. And it’ll make us more productive the following day. Have one to two hours where you don’t check your email, or do anything work related.

Also, have a bedtime routine that can really help with distinguishing the working day from the night time. Make it really strict and do something that you enjoy, get ready a couple of hours earlier so that when it comes to bedtime you don’t have to switch on the bathroom light and have all these arousal promoting stimuli again. We like routine; babies love routine for getting to sleep. We don’t always adhere to it, but you know it’s tried and tested we need to have a fixed signal that it’s time for sleep.

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Watch the full interview here.