Sufficient and good quality sleep is important for everyone. As a crucial foundational pillar for optimal health, sleep directly impacts other areas of health, such as food choices, physical activity levels, mental health and well-being, and quality of relationships.
When we don't get enough good quality sleep, the effects can be far-reaching. In the workplace alone, the consequences of sleep debt include decreased performance and productivity, and an increased incidence of accidents, injuries, and mental health problems.
With at least 18 percent of adults reporting that they're not getting enough sleep, sleep deprivation is a topic that deserves plenty of care and attention. Those who have experienced chronic disruptions to their sleep may feel like a full night of quality sleep is a distant dream. However, the good news is that there are plenty of ways to increase your chances of a good night's sleep.
Although some sleep issues may be challenging to resolve quickly (hello parents of young children!), there are several ways to work towards better sleep habits. After you stop believing some of the sleep myths out there and start taking steps to improve your general sleep hygiene, you'll be well on your way towards establishing good habits for consistently better sleep.
[Find out how employers can play their role in this space in "6 Ways Employers Can Help Their Employees Sleep Better at Night"].
Creating the ideal sleep environment in your bedroom
Alongside essential sleep hygiene practices such as exercise, daytime sunlight, and stress reduction, your bedroom environment is an important consideration for better sleep. It can have a sensory impact that could be either supportive of, or detrimental to, good quality sleep.
The ideal sleep environment will vary a bit from person to person. Step by step, you can adapt your surroundings until you have just the right set-up for you. Sounds, smells, visual aspects, design, and the objects you choose to have or not have in your bedroom should all be considered when you are creating the best sleep environment for you.
Here are six aspects of your sleep environment to get you started on creating your ideal space.
1. Light levels
It is well documented that lights in the evening and nighttime can suppress melatonin production. Melatonin is an important neurotransmitter involved in the onset of sleep and regulation of sleep cycles.
There are many ways that nighttime light can disrupt your sleep. From streetlights outside that are creeping in through your curtains to the blue light being emitted from your TV, all can negatively affect your ability to sleep.
Take action by making your room as dark as possible. Options include black-out curtains or darkened windows, or perhaps wearing an eye mask. Keep any light-emitting devices out of the bedroom whenever possible.
The temperature in your bedroom can have a significant impact on how well you sleep. Individual preferences will vary, but the ideal temperature range for a good night's sleep is likely to be somewhere between 65 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you're waking up too hot or too cold, try adjusting the thermostat slightly to see whether it helps you to sleep more comfortably. This may be a challenge if you're sleeping in the same room as someone who has a different internal thermostat to you. Therefore, also consider the clothing and bedding that will help you maintain the temperature that works best for you.
3. Sounds that support sleep
Outside noise from passing traffic, neighbors, or barking dogs, as well as sounds from within the house (such as a snoring partner), can affect the quality of your sleep.
Whilst these sounds may be out of your control, there are ways you can minimize the impact they have on you. Some people may even find it more difficult to sleep when it's too quiet! Consider the ways you can create a better sound environment to help support your sleep. Examples include using earplugs, getting help for a snoring partner, or even having a backup room to sleep in when needed.
White noise machines can help those who need background sounds to help them relax or minimize the effects of other sounds. From guided meditations to relaxing nature sounds, there are also several apps available that can help you to fall asleep and stay asleep.
If you need an alarm to wake you up, select one that allows you to wake up in the gentlest way possible. Gone are the days when you need to wake up to a sudden loud beeping noise. Alarms with gentle light, vibration, or sounds are available, so experiment until you find something that gently eases you into wakefulness.
4. Tidy your room and minimize distractions
Make your bedroom environment as conducive to sleep as possible by minimizing or eliminating any reminders of things you have to do. If you walk into your room feeling overwhelmed with or distracted by the objects in it, this could transfer over to more disruptive sleep.
Stick to the essentials in your bedroom. The objects you choose to have in there should help inspire a feeling of calm. Put things away in drawers, tidy shelves, and remove or hide anything that reminds you of your "to-do" list. Doing so will help you create an environment where you can relax and feel at ease.
5. Invest in quality bedding
A quality mattress and pillow can make a difference in how well you sleep. Both should be the right firmness to promote a comfortable night's sleep. Some mattresses and pillows are even designed with specific health conditions in mind. It can be worth a bit of research to find the level of comfort that works just right for you and what your body needs.
Mattresses and pillows do wear out over time and should be replaced if you think they are adversely affecting your sleep quality or general health. Bedding additions such as foam covers and mattress protectors can help extend the life of your mattress.
It's also worth considering the sheets and duvets that you are using. Natural fibers such as cotton, linen, and wool are more breathable than synthetic fibers. Overall, choose materials that feel good against your skin.
6. Keep it fresh and clean
The air quality in your bedroom can make a difference in how well you sleep. Clean your room and bedding regularly to help keep dust and allergens at bay. Keep the room well ventilated. Open your windows frequently to allow fresh air to flow through and reduce the probability of mold. You can also consider adding plants to your room to help improve air quality.
Essentials oils that have been shown to induce feelings of calmness and relaxation (such as lavender) could also be used in a diffuser.
Final tips to optimize your bedroom environment
An optimal bedroom environment differs from person to person. Once you have considered and taken action on the areas above, you might want to take it a step further. Whether it's your walls or your duvet, select colors that invoke a sense of calm and relaxation. You might even want to try a different set-up with your bedroom furniture to see if it helps you sleep better.