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Is It OK to Work in Bed?

Need a better night’s sleep? Find out why replying to work emails or finishing a paper in bed may make it harder to get sufficient snooze-time.
Is It OK to Work in Bed?
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Stay late at the office to prep for a morning meeting … or head home and hop in bed with a laptop? While it may be tempting to get comfy with papers, spreadsheets, and email inboxes, doing work under the covers could compromise sleep

Photo by Kate Morin

iWork in Bed — The Need-to-Know

The hours we spend at the office may not be enough. In one survey, 57 percent of United Kingdom employees admitted to working two to six hours a week in bed right before going to sleep. (Their spouses can’t be happy.) But research suggests working in bed makes it harder to see the bedroom as a place for sleep, which can ruin a good night’s rest.

Plus, most people’s work involves digital technology (doesn’t Words With Friends count as work?), and using electronics right before bed may negatively affect sleep quality. According to one survey, 95 percent of people use some form of electronics shortly before hitting the hay, with 19- to 29-year-olds the most gadget-active. The glitch in this system is that exposure to artificial light (from devices like phones and computers) after sunset suppresses the release of melatonin, the sleep-promoting hormone [1]. Using electronics around bedtime also keeps us alert (all those fascinating Twitter followers!), and can shift circadian rhythms so that we stay up later.

Separate Yourself — Your Action Plan

Even with apps that help us get a better night’s rest, take a hint from flight attendants and turn off all electronic devices. Generally, it’s best to unplug 45 to 60 minutes before bedtime. It also helps to remove reminders of work-related stress and leave the laptop and briefcase in another room. And pens and paper can stay on the desk—seemingly harmless work-related activities, like writing a letter or balancing the checkbook, could keep us wide awake.

To strengthen the association between lying in bed and feeling sleepy, snoozing and sex should be the only things happening between the sheets. (Falling asleep often follows a little love-making [2].) And it’s worth doing some re-arranging to keep out anything that doesn’t help us relax— like exercise equipment, which may remind us of the morning workout we want to accomplish. Scientists also advise banning television from the bedroom [3]. (And a late night episode of True Blood might just give us nightmares.) Same goes with turning off the cell phone; besides, sleep-texting should never be on anyone’s bedroom agenda.

What’s the last thing you do in bed before going to sleep? Confess in the comments below!

Works Cited +

  1. Effect of Light on Human Circadian Physiology. Duffy, J.F., Czeisler, C.A. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 2009 Jun;4(2):165-177.
  2. Time for sex: nycthemeral distribution of human sexual behavior. Refinetti, R. Circadian Rhythm Laboratory, University of South Carolina, Walterboro, SC. Journal of Circadian Rhythms, 2005 Mar 24;3(1):4.
  3. Behavioral and pharmacological therapies for late-life insomnia: a randomized controlled trial. Morin, C.M., Colecchi, C, Stone, J, et al. Université Laval, Ecole de Psychologie, Sainte-Foy, Quebec, Canada. The Journal of the American Medical Association, 1999 Mar 17;281(11):991-9.

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