Important Sleep-Friendly Work-From-Home Tips

Here are some tips for creating a healthy work-from-home environment.

Posted Aug 10, 2020

Source: Unsplash

Last week I discussed the importance of creating a great sleep environment for those of you who are working from home and have no choice but to create an office space in your bedroom that is conducive to getting good sleep.

Today I am going to cover strategies that apply to everyone who works from their home, including anyone who is working from their bedrooms. 

Set yourself up to get some morning sunlight

If your individual environment allows it, working outside for parts of the day can be one of the benefits of this work from home experiment we’re conducting. (The reader who wrote to me is NOT in a position to work outdoors—but this is a good alternative to limit the amount of time one needs to work from their bedroom.) Whether you’re working outdoors or in, set yourself up to soak up some sunlight early in the day. You’ll boost your levels of vitamin D, which plays an important, often overlooked role in sleep. Many adults are chronically low on vitamin D, and that has negative consequences for sleep.   

There’s a strong body of research showing the benefits of morning light for mood, performance, health, and sleep

Exposure to natural light in the morning increases attention and focus, through a number of pathways, including: 

  • Strengthening circadian rhythms, which exert control over cognitive performance as well as sleep
  • Suppressing melatonin, a hormone that facilitates sleep. Low melatonin equals more alertness
  • Increasing activity in areas of the brain responsible for concentration 

Morning exposure to natural light also lowers depression and anxiety and increases positive mood, helping us feel more energized and with a greater sense of well being, according to research. 

Every one of these benefits can help you be more productive during your work time. They all deliver a second round of benefits when it comes to your nightly sleep. Morning light exposure has been associated with sounder, more restful sleep with fewer awakenings, and needing less time to fall asleep at the start of the night. The effect of early daylight exposure on stress, anxiety, and depression also play a role in improving the quality of sleep

Spend some work time outside on your patio. Set up a workstation near a window that gets morning light. Paying attention to this seemingly small detail of your workday can deliver big dividends for your productivity and your nightly rest. 

Don’t just think about the where—also think about the when

It’s natural for most people to think about where you’re going to work from your home. But thinking about the when of your home-work routine is equally important—and can actually help you determine your optimal home office set up. Your individual chronotype has a lot to say about your best times for work. I wrote earlier this spring about how our individual chronotypes are affecting the ways we live and work during the pandemic. 

Broadly speaking, Lions will be at their most productive in the morning. Bears hit their productivity stride during the middle hours of the day. Wolves reach peak productivity in the afternoon and early evening. Late afternoon is also prime productivity time for Dolphins. And let’s remember, there are different types of productivity to consider. There’s the hyper-focused, analytical, and task-driven productivity that we all need to take care of certain types of work. And then there’s the more conceptual, creative, thought-driven, and big-picture work that requires a different mindframe. For each chronotype, those types of work happen at different times during the day. Both your individual chronotype and the kind of work you need to accomplish in any given session can influence how and where you set up your work space. 

For example, a Lion who needs to create a detailed outline for a presentation, with their analytical brain in full swing, will get their best work done between about 10 a.m. and noon. If you’ve got school-aged kids or especially teens in the house, trying to work at your kitchen island during these hours is likely to be a recipe for frustration. You need a quiet, focus-friendly space. On the other hand, if you’re a Lion at the early, brainstorming phase of that presentation, you’ll do your very best conceptual thinking even earlier in the morning, around 6-7 a.m. The Wolves and Bears in your family are still asleep, your kitchen is empty, and a comfortable, productive place to soak up the silence—and the early morning sun—while you think through your ideas.

I’m a Wolf, so my peak concentration times happen in the mid- to late-afternoon. But I can do things like update my calendar and weed out my inbox during the late morning. That relatively light work I’ll often take out to the patio, or near the pool where my kids are likely to be. For my deep concentration productivity in the afternoon, I head straight to my office and close the door. 

Every chronotype has best times to do different types of work. Thinking about the optimal when of work will help guide you to the ideal where and how. I always love hearing from you with any and all questions about sleep, keep them coming! 

Sweet Dreams

Michael J. Breus, Ph.D., DABSM

The Sleep Doctor™