The other day, a friend asked me if I’m still waking up super early now that I’m working from home. When I told her I am, she said, “That’s crazy. This is the time to stay up late and sleep in.” This was far from the first time I’ve been told that people’s sleep schedules are all over the place during the stay at home orders. However, you might want to think twice before you throw off your routine.
Why it’s tempting
Even if you’re still expected to be “at work” at the same time, there are normal morning activities you no longer have to do. If nothing else, you get to skip the commute. My job is being super flexible in terms of when we get things done, as long as they’re done within a specified timeframe. I have several daily meetings, but the first one doesn’t start until 11am. Some of my colleagues have gone from getting up at 6:30 to getting up at 10:30. Sleeping in is a luxury we don’t often get, so it’s hard to resist hitting snooze, or changing the alarm. After all, the more sleep you get, the better…right?
Why it’s bad
Everyone has an optimal amount of sleep to get. For adults, it can be between seven and nine hours. For teens, it’s 8-10. Not getting quite enough sleep leaves us feeling irritable, groggy, and unfocused. The truth is that most of us don’t get that much sleep, resulting in a condition called sleep debt. Using lockdown as a chance to finally get enough sleep finally is absolutely a good and healthy decision. Getting enough sleep is vital for our health and well being, and it’s especially important for our immune system. However – and this is a very important however – you should be sleeping in the same timeframe every day.
Why? Because your body has a biological clock. In your ideal state, it should be tied to the day night cycle, but even lockdown life doesn’t always allow for that. So a sleep schedule helps you simulate that. You train your body when it should get tired and when it should wake up. The more regular you are about it, the better your overall sleep quality will be. Even if you are getting 8 hours a night, proper sleep routines mean you’ll get a better rest than you would if you have a poor schedule.
How to avoid it
Alarms are your friend and ally here. Not just to wake yourself up, but also to remind yourself of when to sleep, and when to start preparing to sleep. If you’re like me, your caffeine intake has gone way up during the lockdown. To combat this, I’ve set a daily alarm six hours before bedtime to remind me to switch to decaf. It helps to have another alarm three hours before bed as your “last call” for food, because eating too much before bed can keep you up, but going to bed hungry is also hard. Then the final alarm, one hour before bed, is when you stop screen time. Read a book, listen to music…anything that takes you away from a computer or TV screen. Then – and this can be the hard part – once that hour has passed, actually go to bed. Once you reach (or reestablish) the point where this routine is second nature, you might not need all the reminders, but early on they’ll help you set the habit.
You also have to have good habits in the morning. An alarm here is going to be important, even as your body starts adjusting to the point where it wakes up on its own. Once your alarm does start beeping, actually get out of bed. If you don’t get up, you’re likely to find yourself drifting back off to sleep, defeating the entire purpose. Oversleeping is almost as bad as undersleeping, and causes some of the same long term problems. When you get out of bed, do something that wakes you up. Preferably something you find enjoyable. Caffeine can be resumed here, or exercise if that’s your jam. A nice hot shower is always good, and if you’re working from home and therefore have more time, you could even indulge in a hot bath. Cook breakfast as opposed to blearily shoving a donut in your face. (Or do the bleary donut shove, I won’t judge – my donut love is well documented.) Whatever you do, have a routine, because your body will start associating those activities with waking up, leading you to actually perking up much quicker and feeling infinitely better about your day.
How are you doing at keeping a routine (for sleep, or any other activities) while you’re at home?