Contrary to the belief that while sleeping, we are inactive, the body and brain are doing many biological processes to rejuvenate from the previous day’s activities and prepare for the new day. Your brain stores new information and gets rid of toxic waste while your body repairs cells, restores energy, and releases molecules.
With these processes going on, it’s not a surprise that we spend a third of our lives sleeping. Losing just an hour or two of sleep each night can seriously disrupt these processes, leading to some difficulties the next day. More people are beginning to realize the importance of proper sleep hygiene and how it positively affects their daily lives. They are now actively trying to change their habits by keeping a bedtime routine, keeping active, having a balanced diet, and relaxing before bedtime.
However, there is one aspect of sleep hygiene that still needs more attention - the sleep environment. Luckily, we’ve prepared a list of tips to help you get started.
Keep it Quiet.
Even if we are asleep, our body is still processing background noises. Noise can disrupt your sleep and leave you with an unpleasant sleep experience. Though you may recall being asleep for most of the night, you might not be having restful sleep at all.
Try to minimize the chance of distracting sounds before going to bed. Make sure that you’ve set aside those noise-makers like your beeping electronics away. Consider earplugs or placing a white noise machine in your bedroom to drown out the loud background noise.
Let’s face it. We can’t control our neighbor’s honking cars, crying children, or barking dogs. If you live in a loud urban environment and you’re looking for a more permanent solution to your noise problem, the guys at The Silent Hub have some great advice on how to soundproof the wall of your room for the restful sleep you deserve.
Create a Sanctuary in your Bedroom.
Your bedroom is a safe space. It’s a place where you rejuvenate and relax; however, you won’t be able to do this if you always use your bedroom outside of its intended purpose. Admit it. Many of us use our rooms to watch our favorite shows, work from the bed, browse the internet, and a variety of activities that are not related to sleep. It may help improve your sleep quality if you limit your bedroom activities to sleep and sex only. Keeping computers, TVs, and work materials will further distract you from sleeping.
Aside from making sure that your bedroom remains a place for sleep, you could also fix up your sleeping environment. The more inviting and pleasing your bedroom is, the better your sleep may become. Try to avoid placing bold colors into the room. You’d want to use soft, muted colors that can instill calmness and relaxation in us as we try to unwind from the day.
Keep the room nice, dark, and cool to promote slumber.
If you have a pet that regularly wakes you up in the middle of the night to demand head scratches, you may consider keeping it out of your bedroom, at least for when you sleep anyway.
Out with the Clutter.
One of the most distracting things to the eye is the presence of clutter. Your bed should be clear of work files, laptops, and other work-related objects. It should also be clear of any unnecessary trinkets and knick-knacks that don’t serve a purpose for sleeping. While creating a serene sleeping environment, aim for clutter reduction as well. When the room is cluttered, the area can feel too busy and distracting for quality sleep. Even worse, clutter can cause people to feel anxious and keep them up. When this occurs, sleep quality declines.
To keep clutter out of the way, try to make sure that everything has its place. When things are out of place, place them back where they belong. Have a designated storage bin for what you can’t immediately put away to avoid piling them somewhere.
Don’t Forget about Lighting.
Managing your exposure to light in your bedroom is fundamental. When darkness falls, melatonin, also known as the sleep hormone, begins to rise while body temperature falls. This signals the body to become less alert and to welcome sleep; however, light exposure at the wrong time can throw off your body’s internal clock.
The lighting must be just right both during and before sleep to achieve a night of restful quality sleep. Your eyes aren’t that good at blocking light. Consider blackout curtains and shades to prevent outside light from disturbing your sleep. Don’t neglect the light coming from your electronics. If you can’t switch them off, make sure they aren’t facing you.
Keep your Room Cool.
Studies have found that keeping your room at a temperature near 65°F (18.3°C) is optimal for undisrupted sleeping. The last thing you would want is to be too hot or too cold in sleep. It causes your body’s internal body temperature to fluctuate and cause you to have disrupted sleep.
Adding to this, make sure that your room is also well-ventilated. The ideal humidity level should be around 30-40%, so having a humidifier to regulate the air in your room will help. You can take a page out of the bat’s book. Your bedroom should be cold, dark, and quiet.
Create a Comfortable Bed.
It seems obvious but is often overlooked: your mattress, pillows, and sheets are a big part of how well you sleep. If you recall the story of The Princess and the Pea, the princess tossed and turned all night and couldn’t sleep because her bed felt so uncomfortable. While it is an exaggeration to be unable to sleep because of a pea, a takeaway we can get from this is that your bed matters.
Although this does require a bit of trial and error to get right, invest in good quality mattresses, sheets, and blankets. Your room might be cool, dark, and quiet now; however, if your mattress feels like hardwood and your sheets rough, it wouldn’t be hard to imagine why you’re still not getting that quality sleep. Your sleeping surface is critical to comfort and pain-free sleep, so choose your mattress and pillow wisely and sheets.
Aromatherapy can be inexpensive and easy to introduce into your sleeping routine. Using your preferred essential oils can help infuse your room with a scent that makes you relax and help you fall asleep, and sleep soundly.
Certain scents are known for their soothing effects. Others help at clearing the airways and preventing sleep disruptions due to snoring or sleep apnea. Try to find something that you like and notice if there are any changes to your overall sleep quality. Aromatherapy can be inexpensive and easy to introduce into your sleeping routine. Using your preferred essential oils can help infuse your room with a scent that makes you relax and help you sleep soundly.
Although needs may vary, the basic concept of sleep hygiene is that by making small adjustments and tweaking your environment and habits, you can test out which works and helps your sleep the most. You don’t have to change everything at once, but making these small steps can move you forward to better sleep.
Get any possible sleep disorder diagnosed
Unfortunately, for some people, practicing good sleep hygiene isn't always enough. If you've improved your sleep environment and have been applying positive personal habits and you're still not seeing results, it could be a sign of a sleep disorder.
A sleep disorder is anything that disrupts your sleep patterns. Some of the most common sleep disorders are sleep apnea, insomnia, narcolepsy, restless leg syndrome, bruxism, and a variety of parasomnias.
If you believe that your lack of nigtly sleep is due to a sleep disorder, it may be time for you to schedule a sleep study to help diagnose your disorder and show you the best treatment options available to you.
At The Alaska Sleep Clinic, we specialize in diagnosing and treating a myriad of sleep disorders. So if you're serious about making sleep your priority this year, contact us @ 907-770-9104.