Thanks to growing advocacy and the abundance of available information on sleep medicine there is a growing awareness of the importance of getting quality sleep every night. More people are beginning to realize the benefits of practicing sleep hygiene, and how it can positively impact their daily lives.
Many people are choosing to make sleep a priority and realizing they can accomplish it by keeping a bedtime routine, exercising regularly, eating sleep-friendly foods, and relaxing before bedtime.
However, there is one aspect of sleep hygiene that still needs more attention. One that should be at the forefront of the pursuit for better sleep naturally –– the sleep environment.A third of your life is spent sleeping in a bedroom. All too often, people overlook the importance of what a bedroom actually means in getting great sleep.
Many of us use our rooms to watch TV, browse the internet, talk with our spouses about life decisions, and a variety of other activities not associated with sleep.
If sleep is important to you, it's time to start looking at how your bedroom impacts your sleep, and methods to improve it.
How to Maximize Your Room for Sleep
1. Change How you Think about Your Room
One of the biggest keys in maximizing the efficiency for sleep in your room is what you associate your room with. Ideally your room should be used for two purposes only: sleep and romance. Everything else done in your room serves no other purpose than to distract you from sleep. But how do you improve your room so that it's only associated with sleep?
2. Clean Out All the Clutter
Your room isn't your gym, office, or playroom. To begin associating it with sleep, you need to get all the stuff out that is potential distractions. Put the treadmill in another, get rid of the computer and work desk, and most importantly (and probably the hardest) ditch the television.
Having your bedroom as the place to go for other activities only leads to your brain associating the room with other things. If your bedroom is where your office is, it can help make your mind busy and even anxious about work, because you correlate the room with busy work.
Getting rid of the TV helps in many ways. For one, it's too easy to watch it before bedtime as it's in the room. Engaging programs can keep your mind awake longer as you get sucked into the story.
TVs also emit blue light, which can trick the body's production of melatonin into slowing down. Light is associated with wakefulness. When there's light, your body doesn't produce as much melatonin, a hormone that promotes sleep, making it more difficult to fall asleep.
And speaking of distractions...
3. Ditch All Electronics
For the same reasons you shouldn't have a TV or computer in your bedroom, you also shouldn't have a cellphone, tablet, laptop, portable game console, or e-reader in the room either. Most of these devices also emit the sleep stealing light and are used for consuming content that may rob you of sleep because it's so engaging.
You should also adjust the position and location of your alarm clock. Not only is the light from the digital display distracting, but many people find themselves constantly looking at the time displayed on their clock, and if it's getting late, start worrying about losing sleep. This worry over losing sleep can cause anxiety, which will lead to even more lost sleep. The best solution for alarm clocks is to set them at the given wake-up time, place them on the other side of the room, and turn them away from you. This keeps you from worrying about the time, and it also prevents you from sleeping in by hitting the snooze button as it forces you to get up from bed in the morning to turn it off.
4. Keep Your Room Dark
We've already discussed how artificial light mimics natural light to keep you from sleep. One of the best things for sleep is to eliminate all lights possible. That means don't leave a lamp on, remove any night-lights, and get heavy curtains or blackout blinds to eliminate outside light.
If you refuse to remove your cellphone from the room, one helpful tip is to flip it over, screen-side down, during bedtime. Many phones light up when there's an incoming text, email, or push notification from an app that may distract you from sleep or even wake you from sleep. Eliminate unwanted light at night by flipping your phone over.
5. Keep Your Room Quiet
Noise is another common sleep thief. Whether the sound comes from within the room itself, down the hall, or across the street, noise can prevent us from getting to sleep, and even worse, can rouse us from sleep.
In truth it's not so much sound itself that prevents sleep, it's the inconsistency of sound or silence that can be disruptive.
If your sleep environment has noises beyond your control (see noisy neighbors and traffic) try sleeping with a sound machine. Sound machines produce soothing, mellow sounds that not only help you relax for sleep, but drown out other sounds that may wake you from sleep.
Some people claim they need music to sleep. If you're someone who can't fall asleep without listening to music, try setting it on a timer to turn off a short time after you would normally fall asleep. This eliminates the chances of a sudden, inconsistent sound from waking you from sleep.
6. Keep Your Room Cool
As you go to sleep your body temperature begins to drop as it prepares itself for slumber. Keeping your room a cool temperature (between 60-67 degrees) can help aid the process of cooling your body.
Sleeping naked not only increases the chances you'll sleep comfortably and soundly, it also helps cool your body down by eliminating nightgowns and pajamas that may keep your body temperature.
7. Use Aromatherapy
Research has shown that using certain scents in a room can help promote sleep. What aromatherapy does is creates an atmosphere that is relaxing and calming, which can help you wind down to sleep. It is also good as part of a routine that, through continued use, your brain will pick up as a cue that it's almost time for bed. The best scents to use are lavender and vanilla.
8. Make Your Bed Comfortable
If you're waking up feeling stiff, numb, or tired, or maybe just had great sleep in a hotel bed, it may be time to replace your mattress and/or pillows. Most mattresses are designed to last up to 10 years, but if your mattress has lumps, snags, rips, or holes you may want to think about replacing it. Similarly, if you find yourself constantly fluffing your pillow throughout the night, it may be time for a new one.
You spend a third of your life sleeping on your bed, and while upfront costs of a new bed may be scary, it may be worth your while to get the best that you can afford. Choosing a mattress really comes down to personal preference, whether you sleep better with a bed that is firm, bouncy, or has a little buoyancy, there is a mattress to fit your needs.
There are mattresses available to suit all types of sleep needs including adjustable stiffness, preferred sleep positions, disturbances from a tossing/turning partner, or even have covered if you have allergies to certain fabrics or dust mites.
If you need help looking for your best mattress, check out sites like Consumer Mattress Guides, which help you make informed buying decisions.
9. Paint Your Room
A study in Britain showed that the color of your bedroom can impact the amount of sleep you get. In a survey of over 2,000 British homes it was found that the colors blue, yellow, and green helped sleepers get the most hours of sleep with blue averaging 7 hours 52 minutes, yellow at 7 hours 40 minutes, and green at 7 hours 36 minutes.
These colors are often associated with calmness and relaxation and can help put your mind at ease as you are trying to rest.
At the other end of the spectrum, colors such as purple, brown, and grey can potentially ruin the amount of sleep you get. Average hours for these colors are 6 hours 12 minutes for grey, 6 hours 5 minutes for brown, and 5 hours 56 minutes for purple.
Theories suggest that purple is an artistic color that stimulates the creative mind, and browns and greys are often associated with dreariness and depression.
As you can tell, there are a number of things that can rob you of sleep. Fortunately, most of these things can be solved through practicing good sleep hygiene and making sleep a priority. Unfortunately for some people, practicing good sleep hygiene and maximizing their sleep environment doesn't always help them sleep better. Many of these people suffer from sleep disorders that need to be diagnosed and treated starting with a sleep study.
For residents of Alaska, The Alaska Sleep Clinic is here to help. We have over a decade worth of experience in diagnosing and treating a variety of sleep disorders including sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, narcolepsy, and many others. If you're having trouble sleeping and think it may be a sign of a disorder, click the link below for a free consultation with a sleep specialist.