People working remotely is not a new concept, however the global pandemic of Covid- 19 has meant that a large proportion of the nation have worked from home over the past 12 months, as advised by government guidelines, to increase our social distancing and cut the risk of transmission.
As we emerge out of Lockdown number three, there may be discussions about returning to the workplace however, it's a timely reminder that we still need to keep boundaries in place and stick to a regular routine so that it doesn't impact too heavily on our sleep. Disruptions to our normal day to day routine can have a knock-on effect, so safeguard your sleep with these following tips:
- It is important to keep a regular daily routine to keep you mentally focused and your body clock in sync - our sleep/wake schedule is controlled by our body clocks and environmental cues. Don't be tempted to hit snooze just because you don't have to physically go into work. Make sure you get showered, dressed and have a balanced breakfast like you would for a normal 'workday'.
- Before you start work or a mid-morning break, get some natural light - whether that's a brisk walk or 10 minutes sat in the garden with a morning cuppa. Natural light, which can still be effective on a cloudy or grey day as it helps reset our internal body clock. It helps us get over feeling groggy when we have just woken up and makes us more alert.
- Put boundaries in place. While there is flexibility in working from home, make sure you stick to your work hours as much as possible. Don't be tempted to 'be available' at all times. Checking emails or even working too close to bedtime could see you having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.
- Have a designated area for working (not in the bedroom) and where possible commit to using it only during work hours. Working from your bed may seem appealing but it's no good for your posture or productivity.
- Take regular breaks. At home, you may find (with no other distractions) that you work solidly for longer so take the opportunity every hour to stretch your legs and get a change of scenery.
- Working from home can be surprisingly hard on your mental health, which in turn can affect your sleep. You may miss the banter of the factory floor or the ability to bounce ideas off each in the office. Luckily there are many platforms for people to stay connected - Microsoft Teams and Zoom - where you can see and speak to colleagues.
- Keep hydrated. Without colleagues todo a 'coffee round' make sure you regularly have a drink. Keep a bottle of water on your desk and use tea making time to have a break from the computer screen.
- Avoid fueling up on caffeine in the afternoon when you hit the post lunch dip. Although there are significant individual differences in how caffeine affects each of us, give yourself enough time between your last caffeine intake and your sleep time to make sure that it does not interfere with your ability to get off to sleep. If you're feeling lethargic in the afternoon, spend 10 minutes outside or put one of your favourite songs on to lift your mood.
Remember when you don't sleep well, your work performance is affected.
Mental Health & Sleep
There's a close relationship between sleep and mental health. Lack of sleep can affect mental health, but mental health problems can also affect how well you sleep - both the quantity and the quality of it - so it's extremely important to address both issues. Any health professional will always enquire about both mood and sleep behaviour when making any kind of diagnosis.
Sleep deprivation has a negative effect on physical and emotional ability. Sleep has an important restorative function in 'recharging' the brain at the end of each day but also giving us the ability to manage and cope. Keeping a regular sleep-wake pattern allows the natural rhythm of the body to be reset every day and therefore optimises brain functioning.
Did you know that 4 in 5 long term poor sleepers suffer from low mood and are seven times more likely to feel helpless and five times more likely to feel alone?
Ongoing poor sleep can be a huge risk factor for the development of major depressive disorder. The risk of feeling depressed and/or anxious (as well as worsening existing anxiety and depression) increases with the severity of insomnia, and so it is important to recognise and sort out sleep problems as soon as they are identified.
Symptoms of sleep deprivation include:
- Low mood
- Erratic behaviour
- Impaired concentration and memory loss § Tiredness
- High blood pressure
How Can Mental Health Problems Affect Sleep?
According to the mental health charity Mind, there are number of ways a mental health problem can affect your sleep.
- Anxiety can cause thoughts to race through your mind, making it difficult to sleep.
- Depression and seasonal affective disorder (SAD) can lead to oversleeping - either sleeping late in the morning or sleeping a lot during the day. If you experience difficult or troubling thoughts as part of depression, this can also cause insomnia.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can cause nightmares and night terrors, disturbing your sleep. This can mean you feel anxious about falling asleep, which could lead to insomnia.
- Paranoia and psychosis may make it difficult for you to sleep. You may hear voices or see things that you find frightening, or experience disturbing thoughts, which make it hard to fall asleep.
- Mania often causes feelings of energy and elation, so you might not feel tired or want to sleep. Racing thoughts caused by mania can make it hard to fall asleep and may cause insomnia.
- Psychiatric medication can cause side effects including insomnia, disturbed sleep or oversleeping. You may also experience sleep problems after you stop taking psychiatric drugs.
Poor sleep quality also affects mood, so if you spot a change in an employee, a friend or family member's behaviour and attitude then try talking to them. These changes in mood can be minor or they may be a more serious mental health issue and it's important to be conscious of this.
Those who don't sleep well because of health issues often look to medication and drinking alcohol to try and get a better night's sleep - not the best solutions. Many also turn to more natural, alternative or self-help solutions - from meditation and homeopathy to sleep advice lines and sleep clinics to cognitive behavioural therapy courses. Often people neglect the obvious basics such as a good sleep-orientated environment, a comfortable bed and proper bedtime wind down routines.
It can also help for people to write down what's worrying them or talk through their issues with someone - unburdening thoughts can lift a huge weight off someone's shoulders. Advice on ways to relax is also useful - meditation is a great tool for relaxing body and mind.
Exercise (but not too close to bedtime) can also aid better quality sleep and lower body temperature which also induces sleep. It improves heart health and blood pressure; builds and strengthens bone and muscle; helps combat stress; helps improve mood; and it helps you look and feel better.
If you are experiencing frequent problems with sleeping, please make an appointment to see your GP.
Should you require any further information, clarification or assistance please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org or 01268 649006.