In recent years, working from home has become increasingly common, and so has insomnia. Some jobs have become completely remote, while others are hybrid with workers alternating between home and the office.
This trend accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic, as many Canadian workers transitioned to working entirely from home. While many thought this was a temporary trend, as of December 2021, 22% of Canadian workers were still working remotely. Furthermore, it’s estimated that 40% of jobs in the country can be done from home.
Fully 78% of Canadian workers have expressed the desire for a hybrid schedule, and as the preference for working from home increases it is plausible that more employers will offer working from home/ hybrid options. Yet, contrary to what one might think, less time commuting and more flexibility do not necessarily mean better sleep.
Sleep Problems During COVID-19: Insomnia
Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, sleep has become a problem not only for Canadians, but also the whole world. While people spent more time at home, nearly 40% of people worldwide reported experiencing insomnia during the pandemic. Sleeping pill usage also went up by 20%. The prevalence of insomnia during the pandemic became so concerning that medical professionals even dubbed a new term: Coronasomnia.
Does Remote Work Contribute to Insomnia?
How much has remote work to do with insomnia? And how much do we know about the impact of remote work on sleep as we enter the post-pandemic era? Since remote work is a relatively new trend, there hasn’t been much research yet on this topic. Here’s what we do know.
In terms of sleep quantity, remote work may have a positive impact. A study based on European samples showed that lockdown and stay-at-home policies during the COVID-19 pandemic led to improved individual sleep-wake timing and, overall, more sleep. However, sleep quality decreased significantly.
The negative effect of remote work on sleep quality has been the subject of research in recent years. A study done in 2017 by the United Nations International Labour Organization found that 42% of remote workers have trouble staying asleep at night, compared to 29% of those who commute to work.
Why Does Remote Work Negatively Affect Sleep Quality?
One explanation is that as remote work blurs the boundary between work and home, our brains have less opportunity to disconnect at bedtime. A 2014 study found that crossing the work-home boundary makes workers less mentally detached from their work even after working hours, thus causing them to be less relaxed when they try to fall asleep. This effect was only observed among workers who set low boundaries between work and home.
Increased sedentary time while working from home may also factor into insomnia. Adults who get insufficient sleep typically report more hours of sedentary time a day than adults who get adequate sleep. Sitting in front of our monitor at the comfort of our home may mean less physical activity in the daytime, causing us to be less sleepy at night.
- Set boundaries between work and life. Set clear work hours and limits with colleagues so that your work is not following you to bed
- Engage in physical activities to substitute for a commute. Take a walk during your lunch break or before or after work. Get up for 5 minutes every hour to stretch and get your blood flowing.
- Carve out a work space in your home and contain your work to this area. Try to not work in your bedroom.
And let us know on any of our social channels – do you have any tips to share regarding post-pandemic sleep as an at-home worker?