Computer work lying down comfortably with a home-made stand over the bed
by Stephen Hewitt | Published 29 April 2022
This article reports the result of a successful personal attempt to find an arrangement of keyboard, mouse and monitor for lying down comfortably while using a computer. It describes the arrangement and reports experiences using it. It does not discuss general motivations for working lying down.
The arrangement is shown in Figure 1 and the next three sections summarise essential points about the keyboard, mouse and monitor. Figure 2 shows some physical dimensions of the set-up.
The keyboard is vertical and is suspended from above.
In this arrangement, the weight of your arms is supported by your elbows resting on the mattress. This is important because having to raise your arms to type is uncomfortable and not feasible for more than a minute or two.
Resting your elbows on the mattress means that the keyboard height above the mattress has to be adjusted so that your fingers reach the correct row of keys.
Related to lying under the keyboard, I found that it is important to be able to get on and off the bed easily. There is often something I need, such as the telephone or a paper document or some reason unrelated to the work that means I need to get up.
With the keyboard supported only from above and no obstructions along the exit side of the bed, it is possible to get off the bed quickly and easily.
The mouse is shown in Figure 3. The mouse pad is a horizontal surface behind the vertical keyboard and flush with the top of it. The back of the mouse pad can be seen in Figure 1 as a white block of wood protruding behind the keyboard.
When I first tried the mouse in this position I thought it would probably be unusable because I would have to raise my right arm and support its weight. I already had found that holding arms up was intolerable for typing. But the mouse position has turned out to be comfortable for me for all my normal computer use. The main reason for this is that the location of the mouse on a horizontal surface means that I can rest the ball of my thumb and part of the palm of my right hand on the edge of that horizontal surface. The weight of my arm can then hang from my hand as from a hook. This is shown in Figure 4. Although it is not completely comfortable, I can leave my hand on the mouse for minutes without it being a problem. I would not want to do it for longer periods, and a few times when I knew that I was going to be using only the mouse and not the keyboard, I have brought the mouse down onto the bed.
The mouse is physically close to my right hand, probably closer in distance than on a horizontal desk. I cannot see the mouse even while i am using it, but my hand always finds it immediately. This means I do not even glance towards the mouse when I take it.
The screen is almost horizontal. It can be directly overhead, and its position can easily be changed because it is on 1m long rails and I can reach up and easily slide it further towards the head or foot of the bed while I am working.
Not very often but there have been days where at some point, using this arrangement my neck aches at the back. The remedy for this is to adjust the pillow so that my head is tipped further forward. This effect may be personal to me. For example, I have felt a similar discomfort from sitting close to the front in cinemas where you have to look up slightly to see the screen and I have preferred to sit further back and higher up.
The monitor can be lifted off its rails and stood back on a desk. I bought extension video lead and mains lead and I have sometimes lifted the monitor off the rails and put it back on the nearby desk and continued working without even closing an application. This obviously depends on the computer being close enough both to the desk and the bed.
- A personal script for a guided body scan “meditation” or attention exercise 28 December 2020, Stephen Hewitt
- Metro News article: Man creates desk that lets you use a computer while lying down Ellen Scott, Metro News, 5 November 2021
- The Independent article: Forget standing desks: the next thing is lying down to work Hazel Sheffield, The Independent, 29 October 2015 (Altwork)