How, oh how, to get a good night’s sleep?
We’ve all been there. Tossing, turning, unable to settle your mind. It could be because you’re too hot, too cold, it’s not quiet enough, its too quiet, it’s too bright, and you just can’t stop thinking about…that important meeting tomorrow, that stupid comment you made, things you wish you’d said, will you oversleep, how can you possibly get everything done?!? There’s a laundry list of things that are sleep disruptors. It’s really a wonder that anyone ever gets a good night’s rest. Let’s take a deep dive to learn ways to achieve a nice long night of restful and peaceful zzzz’s.
Experts say the ideal sleep environment is cool, quiet, and dark; a place you do not fear. A place only for sleep and romance. Not a place where you text, watch TV, catch up on social media, watch TikTok (who can stop?!?), or talk. Even shift workers can maintain such an environment with enough effort. Important sleep topics are below along with some ideas on how to create the perfect sleep environment.
Temperature is huge for me. Just like Goldilocks – not too hot, not too cold, but juuuust right. That can be tricky though, as I, for one, can be very cold when jumping between the sheets, but will wake in the middle of the night because I’m too warm. Ugh.
Sleep experts advise that your bedroom temperature should be comfortable, usually somewhere between 60 to 71 degrees. This might sound a bit chilly for some, but a cooler thermostat setting helps you maintain a lower core temperature while you sleep. Any healthy adult will experience a drop in body temperature while they sleep. This naturally occurs during the initial stages of your sleep cycle because a lower core temperature makes you feel sleepy, whereas a higher temperature helps you stay alert during the day.
- Crack open a window. Cool and fresh air are so much better than stuffy, closed in air.
- Stick a foot out from beneath the covers. Cools me almost immediately, although sometimes I need to stick out both feet.
- If your room has a ceiling fan, use it! An oscillating fan also works great, and you can set it so it doesn’t blow directly on you. I have friends that bring their own fan whenever they travel!
It might not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about good sleep, but air quality is important for your health. Research has found that ventilation and fresher air is associated with better sleep, and problems like mold buildup have been correlated with insomnia and excessive daytime sleepiness.
- Ensuring proper ventilation and avoiding excess humidity can combat mold growth
- Regular cleaning can dramatically cut down on dust mites
- Use an air purifier
- Try a cool mist humidifier. Dry air will stop up your nose forcing you to breathe through your mouth, drying your lips, and maybe even snore.
External noise can wake you, and these disruptions reduce levels of both sleep quality and overall health. If outside noise is beyond your control, here are some aids to consider:
- Use a fan. Not only will one help to cool your room, but it will also produce “white noise” to help mask the ambient sounds that may wake you up at night.
- Purchase a white noise machine to help drown sounds out.
- Play comforting music like meditation or spa music.
- Try wearing earplugs. These can help reduce unwanted noises from neighbors, traffic, or a snoring partner or pet.
According to The Sleep Foundation, “Light is the most powerful cue for your circadian rhythm, part of your biological clock that helps regulate sleep. When it’s time for bed, you want to try to make your bedroom as dark as possible to reinforce a healthy circadian rhythm.”
- Hang blackout curtains if your bedroom receives lots of exterior light
- Use a low color and low wattage light bulb in your bedside lamp
- Try wearing a sleep mask
- Unplug your nightlight
Did you know that having the right scents in your bedroom can be a plus for your sleep? While odors don’t usually cause people to wake up from sleep, they can help cultivate a calming environment for getting quality rest. Studies have found that aromatherapy with essential oils such as lavender can promote relaxation and make it easier to get a good night’s sleep. Click this link to learn how to use essential oils to help promote better sleeping.
Your bed is, of course, your sleep haven. You spend a third of your life sleeping, and while upfront costs of a new bed and/or new bedding might be scary, it may be worth your while to get the best that you can afford.
- A good mattress can be a significant investment, but research has found that it can improve sleep and decrease stress and back pain.
- Comfortable pillows, cooling sheets if you sleep hot, and blankets or comforters if you sleep cold all play an important role in promoting sleep.
- Regularly washing – at least once every two weeks – of your bedding keeps your bed feeling fresh and reduces potential buildup of dust and allergens. If you sweat excessively in your sleep or share your bed with a pet, you may want to consider weekly cleanings.
- Make your bed. In a Bedroom Poll conducted by the Sleep Foundation, the majority of respondents agreed they were more likely to sleep better at night when slipping into a made bed. Dang. Mom was right!
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. 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. Theories suggest that purple is an artistic color that stimulates the creative mind, and browns and greys are often associated with dreariness and depression.
So think of soothing colors as you select bedding and artwork for your bedroom.
While it’s a good idea to go to bed at the same time each night, there will be some nights when your brain is buzzing and not ready for sleep. If so, don’t lie down just yet. Your racing thoughts could lead to insomnia. Instead, do something to relax until you feel tired.
- Take a warm bath or shower. Dim the bathroom lights, or maybe light a candle, and relax into the warmth.
- Make a To Do List. It’s hard to drift off when you’re trying to remember every last thing you need to do when you wake up. Let go of this mental load by writing it down on paper.
- Relax your body. As you lie in bed, tense then relax each of your muscles one by one, starting at your toes and ending at your head. Not only is this incredibly relaxing, but it also forces you to think about the physical parts of your body, directing your attention away from whatever thoughts or stressors you’re fixating on.
- Relax your mind. Place a hand on your heart and feel its rhythm. Breathe in deep for four seconds, then take a long, slow breath out. Repeat this pattern until you can feel your heartbeat slow down. Your thoughts should soon ease up as well.
- Try meditation. If you’re new to meditation practice, it helps to find a point of focus. It could be the sound of your breath or a simple phrase that you repeat in your head, like “I am at peace.” At first, you may struggle to tune out your thoughts. It’s OK to stop after a minute or two — but try again the next night. Over time, you’ll be able to meditate longer.
- Drink a cup of tea. A soothing cup of herbal tea is a great way to wind down. One of my favorites is the aptly named Sleepytime Tea.
- Take Melatonin. A hormone in your body that plays a role in sleep, Melatonin is also available as a supplement, typically as an oral tablet or capsule.
Create a nighttime routine to power down your body and your mind and routines that will have you ready to power down.
- Avoid light from your phone, tablet, computer, and television close to bedtime
- Take a 30- to 60-minute “wind-down” period as a spacer between your day and your sleep time
- Exercise regularly but not after the late afternoon
- Go to bed and wake up within 20 minutes of the same time every day
- Turn off your bedroom TV as it will negatively affect your sleep quality. Screen time exposes your eyes to blue light that can disrupt your circadian rhythm, and it also activates your mind, making it harder to wind down for sleep.
- Minimize or eliminate the use of electronic devices, including tablets and cell phones, in your bedroom. If you need to keep a device in your bedroom, try to keep it out of arm’s reach and avoid using it for an hour or more before bedtime.
- Turn off your cell phone at night so that any emails or texts you receive will not disturb your sleep.
- If you have pets that sleep in your bed or in your room at night, think about putting them out, especially if they seek attention.
- Don’t drink caffeine at night.
- Avoid alcohol and sedatives.
Is your bedroom also your gym, office, or playroom? To associate your bedroom with sleep, clear out potential distractions. Relocate, if possible, the treadmill, your computer and work desk, and most importantly (and probably the hardest) find the television a new location.
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.
Of course, you don’t need to put all of these ideas into practice to sleep well. It may some experimentation to see what works best for you. Do you have any tried and true methods we missed? Let us know in the comments.
And here’s wishing you a nice, long, refreshing sleep. Zzzzzzzz.
Resources: Everyday Health, Sleep Foundation, Sleep Association, Alaska Sleep Clinic, WebMD, National Institute of General Medical Sciences, c|net