Your sleep environment, or in other words your bedroom and bed, is important for your sleep. A good sleep environment should make sleeping easy and something to look forward to. The bedroom should not distract from sleeping and should be free from alerting stimuli such as light and sound.
Here are the basics of how you can turn a sleep environment into your sleep haven.
KEEP YOUR ROOM CLEAN AND TIDY
A tidy bedroom will make it much easier to relax than a cluttered one. It is therefore important to keep your bedroom as clean and tidy as you can. Keep your room dusted and mopped, pack your clothes and books away, remove all but one or two paintings, pictures and posters from your walls, and remove items that do not relax you, including furniture. Make sure to ventilate your bedroom every day, to let the stuffy air out, and the fresh air in.
TAKE CARE OF YOUR BED
Spoil yourself to a good set of neutral-colored cotton bed linen, duvets and pillows, and make your bed every morning as you get up. This will not only make your room look more tidy, but it will also make it that much more attractive to get in bed at night. If you have a turnover mattress, make sure you turn it over as per manufacturer’s instructions. Replace your mattress every 7 years, if the mattress shows signs of wear and tear, if you wake up with aches and pains, or if you slept better on your friend’s mattress or a hotel’s.
USE YOUR BEDROOM FOR TWO THINGS ONLY
Sleep and sex. Those should be the only two activities that take place in your bedroom. Leave your studies, work, social media and Netflix outside of the bedroom. This way, you will never associate your bedroom with stressful or exciting activities (except for the two exciting activities that are allowed in the bedroom), making it easier to relax and fall asleep.
KEEP YOUR SLEEP HAVEN AS DARK AS POSSIBLE AT NIGHT
Melatonin is often called the “sleep hormone”, but it is more accurate to call it the darkness hormone. In both nocturnal and diurnal animals, melatonin is produced in a circadian matter in the absence of light, during the night. However, in nocturnal animals melatonin indirectly increases alertness, whereas in diurnal animals like us melatonin indirectly induces sleep. Because light suppresses melatonin, the darker your sleep haven is, the more melatonin your body produces and the sleepier you will feel. Fit blinds and light-blocking curtains in your bedroom, especially when you have bright streetlights near your bedroom windows. Exchange the light bulbs in your room with lower wattage ones, and use bedside lights with shades to diffuse the light. If you have to use the bathroom at night, avoid switching on any overhead lights and use a keychain light or flashlight if necessary. If you still find your room a tad too light, find an eye mask that works for you to block out any light.
Sound and noises are some of the most common reasons for long awakenings at night. Barking dogs, snoring bed partners and outside traffic are usually the culprits. If you struggle to get to sleep or stay asleep because of sounds, try sleeping with earplugs or a white noise generator. Fans, static radio’s and some smartphone apps all generate white noise. If your bed partner snores, it may be worth visiting a sleep specialist with them: snoring is one of the risk factors for sleep apnea, and bed partners of snorers are known to have less sleep than bed partners of silent sleepers.
KEEP YOUR BEDROOM AT A COOL, COMFORTABLE TEMPERATURE
Try to keep your bedroom temperature somewhere between 16 and 19ºC. If you frequently wake up feeling cold, try sleeping with a second duvet, or cover yourself with more blankets. If you cannot fall asleep because you feel too hot, keep a flat sheet close by to replace your duvet when necessary. On very hot nights, it may help to use a fan. Be wary not to aim the fan directly at you, but rather point the stream of air besides or over you.
A bedroom is just a room with a bed in it, but a sleep haven is so much more. Now you know the basics of turning your bedroom into your sleep haven. Experiment with these tips to find out what works best for you.
BOOK YOUR SLEEP CHECK AT SSISA
Need some help? Book a Sleep Check with us today for personalised advice on your sleep environment and many other aspects of sleep! For more information visit www.sleepscience.co.za.
BY ROB HENST
SSISA SLEEP SCIENTIST