It’s a charge that’s often leveled against our office culture: people weren’t meant to work a 9-to-5 shift in a tiny cubicle (or a slightly larger office), and doing so damages many aspects of our health, including our sleep. But what if you ditch the office? Will you sleep more? That’s a hard question.
A Flexible Work Study
There is at least one good study that supports the conclusion that working from home leads to more sleep. Researchers at Pennsylvania State University followed 474 employees, half of whom were allowed to set the hours (and place) they worked. The flexible work schedule didn’t change the number of hours employees worked, but everything else could be changed.
Over the period of the study, they found that people who had flexible work schedules slept an average of 8 minutes more per night. That’s not really very much, especially considering that the average commute time in Omaha is 20 minutes–so what are people doing with their extra time?
So, at best, people are likely to see a slight improvement in sleep hours over the short term, but, will it make sleep worse over the long term?
A Lack of Barriers
One of the problems that can surface with working from home is that people will lose the barrier separating home life and work life, with the potential for work life to consume their home life. When the demands from work are constant, or the workload is overwhelming, work can begin to overtake personal life, and the first thing to go is sleep. Especially when people take a smartphone, tablet, or laptop into the bedroom, work can pirate multiple hours from sleep.
How to Protect Sleep If You Work from Home
One important aspect of the Penn State study is that the study strictly stipulated that work hours should stay the same. In addition, supervisors participating in the study were coached to support employees’ personal lives, including their need for sleep. This prevented supervisors from cannibalizing employees’ sleep time for work time.
If you are going to work from home, make sure your supervisor understands that your work hours will remain the same–you’re not going to be accessible at all hours of the day and night. Gently but politely stick by your terms. And make a no-devices rule at bedtime. Keep tablets, laptops, and smartphones out of the bedroom.
But sometimes all we try doesn’t actually protect our sleep. If you’re getting enough hours of sleep but not enough rest, you may have sleep apnea. To learn more about sleep apnea treatment, please call (402) 493-4175 for an appointment with an Omaha sleep dentist at the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center.