I’ll be honest. Up until a few months ago, I spent almost every day working from my bed.
Right before COVID-19 and the resulting quarantine, I made a massive shift in my mind to separate myself from the temptation of my bed in an ironic twist of coincidence.
I tend to have a hard time with executive functioning and staying on task in general. At the same time, I don’t do well forcing myself to sit at a desk nonstop. Over time, I realized there were a lot of downsides to working from my bed.
For starters, my sleep quality was dismal, I had a persistent, severe shoulder pain that was steadily getting worse, and I had zero separation of work and home life.
Pandemic or not, I know I’m not alone in both the temptation and the resulting problems of this habit.
In theory, working from bed sounds like a dreamy romantic notion, like you hit the job jackpot. You might imagine yourself with a cup of coffee, your dog or cat quietly cheering you on, and yoga pants on the daily.
However, this is such a slippery slope that it can quickly escalate to a lack of self-control. I learned this the hard way.
According to psychotherapist and behavioral sleep medicine therapist Annie Miller, there’s a very specific reason why we shouldn’t work from our beds.
“When we use our bed for other activities, like working, reading, watching TV, etc., we create an association with wakefulness. We want the bed to be a cue for sleep, and working in bed weakens this association,” says Miller.
To put it in very simple terms, we want to associate our beds with two things only: sleep and intimacy.
If you’re already struggling with sleeping problems, Miller recommends seeking out a specialist. Miller and others treat sleep issues without medication, using cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-i).
While the above touches on ways to help on a cognitive level, there are definitely changes you can make that are purely physical.
Looking at bright screens reduces the melatonin in your body, but not significantly. It’s advised to give yourself at least 30 minutes to two hours of tech-free time before heading to bed.
Using the bed as a workspace means you’re bringing your work with you to bed, both literally and figuratively.
If you’ve been working all day from your bed, you’re likely to continue thinking about work and have a hard time “turning it off” once you slide under the covers for sleep.
On the other hand, it’s easy to never feel fully productive. You may find yourself giving in to heavy eyes and taking naps when you want to be working. Trust me, I know from experience.
Additionally, insomnia is the number one sleep-related problem hindering work productivity. This can be a complication with or without working from the bed, but mixing your work and sleep space is likely to make it worse.
I have a hard enough time as it is keeping good posture, but it’s practically nonexistent in bed. I’m just too tempted to lay down on my back, stomach, or side. When I do, I almost always stand up with a sore spot or charley horse.
Even if you sit in the bed, you’re still sitting on an uneven surface for an extended period of time, having the monitor at an incorrect height, and likely curving your back.
Most of us are already sharing our partners with our electronics. Whether it’s our laptops or cell phones, this pattern has real impacts on relationships.
According to one study, momentary cell phone distractions during time with your partner can lead to decreased relationship satisfaction and even depression in your significant other.
The same logic applies to all screens. No one likes to be ignored for an electronic device. When you’re spending time in bed, leaving the screens out of arms’ reach can help signal to your partner that you’re ready to give them your attention.
This will also help your partner associate the bed with togetherness rather than work.
Want to hear something slightly terrifying? According to dermatologist Dr. Alok Vij in an interview with Cleveland Clinic, we shed enough dead skin cells per day to feed one million dust mites. Upwards of 15 million of these cells are shed at night.
If you factor in additional time spent in bed working, you’re only adding to the buildup of bacteria, not to mention the fact that you’re sitting in it every day. One study found that human beds are actually less sanitary than chimpanzee beds.
Quick public service announcement: Wash your sheets often!
Bedrooms are often darker than other rooms due to fewer windows or a habit of keeping the curtains closed. Sunlight is a natural mood booster and helps lift energy levels.
A dimly lit bedroom could possibly keep you tired, alter your body clock, negatively impact your mental health, and strain your eyes. While a dim room is great for naps, it’s not so great for workday productivity.
Do you feel like you’re always bringing work home with you? Working from bed takes it one step further. Work/life balance is key to both physical and mental health.
Here are a few practical tips to support a healthy work-life balance.
Keep electronics out of the bedroom
While tech-free time before bed is a great start, even better is a tech-free bedroom. Creating a space in your bedroom that’s purely for sleep and intimacy can change your life in a number of ways.
It can help you sleep better, improve your relationships (how often do you both scroll on your phone in bed without speaking to each other?), and create a firm boundary between work and home.
Create a workspace
You don’t have to create a fancy or elaborate office to separate your sleep space from your work. Just a few tweaks or a simple piece of furniture can do the trick.
The most important aspect is to set up a workspace environment that is used only for business. This keeps you organized physically but also mentally.
You’ll transition into “work mode” much more easily and adapt a sense of routine. This dedicated space can also help facilitate boundaries with your family or roommates.
A standing desk is also a great option if you struggle with sitting at a desk all day.
Don’t start your workday in your pajamas
I’ll be honest, this is one I struggle with. I may at least change to yoga pants, but I definitely don’t have different work and home clothing.
However, I think the main thing to remember is that what you sleep in and what you work in should be different. That’s not to say your work clothes can’t be comfortable. Just maybe don’t wear your robe and slippers all day.
Create and stick to a routine
Working from home may be new, but you can keep practically everything else the same. Get up at your normal time, change out of your pajamas, have a healthy breakfast, and take on the day.
It may be easy to work extra hours given that you’re not commuting. Instead, consider using the newfound time to do something like reading, taking a walk, or listening to a podcast or music.
Remember the balance of work and home is that: balance. Just because you don’t have to commute doesn’t mean you need to put in an extra hour or two of work a day.
Sleep is just too precious to compromise by turning your bed into a mixed-use piece of furniture.
From sound, restful sleep to posture and productivity benefits, leaving the bed alone during the day has a ton of benefits.
When it’s time to hit the pillow at night, you’ll be grateful you made an effort to create healthy boundaries between work and sleep.
Ashley Hubbard is a freelance writer based in Nashville, Tennessee, focusing on sustainability, travel, veganism, mental health, social justice, and more. Passionate about animal rights, sustainable travel, and social impact, she seeks out ethical experiences whether at home or on the road. Visit her website wild-hearted.com.