Virtual Learning & Working from Home: Why You Can’t Sleep These Days
At first, everyone was talking about the benefits of working and studying remotely. The flexible schedule, the extra time to be with family, the absence of commutes, and the general comfort of being home…there are positive aspects of pandemic control measures.
Then, another reality started to set in. As we settled into our WFH and remote class routine – or lack of routine – more and more people started to complain of fatigue. For some, rather than getting more sleep, the switch to remote work and school has caused major disruption to their sleep schedule. Instead of feeling more rested, they are feeling tired and stretched thin. What’s going on?
Remote Work & Virtual Learning: How They Lead to Sleep Deprivation
Let’s look at the different factors contributing to this unexpected trigger of sleeplessness and fatigue.
Constant Screen Time
It’s hard to unplug these days. With work meetings and classes moving online, we are glued to our screens more than ever. Plus, laptops, tablets, and mobile phones have become the main source of entertainment and connection with other people.
We should be grateful for the possibility to continue our lives virtually, in a time when in-person activities are potentially unsafe. Yet, spending a lot of time in front of screens makes it more difficult for people of all ages to fall asleep and reduces sleep quality.
For young children, this means an average of 15 minutes of sleep deprivation for every hour spent using a tablet. Adolescents loose about 26 minutes per night for all of the time they spend texting, playing video games, watching TV, and doing schoolwork online. Teenagers tend to experience more symptoms of both insomnia and depression with increased amounts of screen time. And adults can experience lasting effects on the amount of REM sleep they get at night.
Experts say that electronic devices emit artificial blue light that suppresses the amount of melatonin released in the body. This is how the natural circadian rhythm is disrupted by time spent on computers, mobile phones, and in front of the television. Plus, spending the day indoors and staying up late with the lights on, adds to our exposure to artificial light. In the long-term, difficulty falling and staying asleep leads to sleep deprivation which increases the risk of other real health problems.
Forget alarms, many of us have gotten way off our regular schedule. It can feel luxurious to sleep in, take naps, and stay up late. But the lack of structure during the day can lead to poor sleep quality at night.
With distance learning, most students do not have a rigid timetable. For remote workers, their ‘new normal’ schedule is much more flexible. But we also find ourselves juggling more unscheduled activities. This type of chaos causes extra stress, decreases the time left for relaxation and self-care, and disrupts the regular sleep schedule.
Is it time to get back on track? 5 Tips to Restore Your Sleep Schedule.
Bad Bedroom Habits
We help our bodies understand that it is time for sleep is by supporting the association of the bed and bedroom with relaxation. But if you have been using your bedroom as your virtual classroom or remote office, this association gets mixed up. Suddenly, the bedroom has become a stressful environment and it can be hard to disconnect. Without the definition of limits and boundaries in space, it is easy to literally bring your work to bed.
Not All Work & Study Pivots Well to Digital
Teachers, workers, and students alike may find themselves with more work to do than before the pandemic hit. In order to switch things into a digital format or communicate with classmates and colleagues, some activities require more time than they did in the past. Additionally, with remote learning, parents are needing to spend more time helping their children with schoolwork.
In all, staying up late to finish tasks and join virtual meetings across time zones, means less time for sleep.
Less Time for Relaxing
Between caretaking, housework, and Zoom meetings, it is easy for personal and professional time to blend. For working parents, finding time to unwind can be especially challenging during this pandemic period. Juggling the various responsibilities and dealing with the seemingly constant interruptions takes away from what used to be free time.
But, we know that this personal downtime is crucial in making a smooth transition from day to night. Too much stimulation during the day can also make it difficult for the mind to relax and fall asleep, even when your body is tired.
We must also take into account that this pandemic represents a time of high stress levels for a wide range of reasons. There is worry about all of the regular daily issues, plus job security, decreased income, lack of motivation to continue working or studying, childcare… Plus, anxiety about the spread of the virus, risk of infection, anxiety about personal protection during the pandemic, worry about loved ones, conflicted feelings about social distancing, and feelings of isolation.
How Does Sleep Deprivation Affect Health?
It is clear that all this added stress makes resting, relaxing, and sleeping even more challenging. Combined with unprecedented screen time, delayed bedtimes and erratic schedules, as well as a lack of physical and psychological division between work and rest, insomnia is becoming a common problem. In fact, experts worry that COVID-induced insomnia will cause a rise in depression and other mental health issues.
Getting enough sleep and getting good quality sleep is crucial to staying healthy. It supports a strong immune system and maintaining low blood pressure. Now more than ever, it is important to sleep healthy during the pandemic. Everyone should be sleeping well and taking care of their bodies.
Are you struggling with sleeplessness? Learn more about treatment options for insomnia.
Contact Sleep Health Solutions for comprehensive sleep testing and diagnostic support for sleep disorders.