Six Tips to Create the Ideal Sleep Environment
Creating the ideal bedroom for sleep is one of the foundations for good sleep. If you struggle with getting to sleep, staying asleep, or sleeping well at night, there are several things you can do to help you sleep better.
1. Make Your Bedroom as Dark as Possible at Night
As you should be exposing yourself to light during the day, at night you should be reducing your exposure to light. Light tells your brain that it's time to be active, so if you have light in your room when you're trying to sleep and after you've fallen asleep, it can cause you to not sleep as deeply. Some things you can do include:
- Set your cell phone to airplane mode or silent.
- Install room-darkening drapes or blinds.
- Keep phones, laptops, and other electronics away from your bed and unplug them if possible.
- Install dimmers on your lights in your bedroom so when you need to use the light, you can use the least amount necessary.
- Turn your alarm clock away from you and your cell phone face down.
2. Make Your Room Quiet
This can take a bit of work if you live in a loud neighborhood, or have noisy neighbors in your apartment or condo. You're more likely to be woken up during the lighter stages of sleep, but your brain processes sound while you sleep, even if you don't wake up. There are studies that say noise exposure at night may increase the chance of cardiovascular disease.
There are several things you can do to ensure your bedroom is quiet and to reduce your exposure to outside sounds:
- Install sound-absorbing window treatments. The materials are usually a little thicker than average curtains.
- Use a fabric-padded headboard, which will help absorb sound in your room.
- Use a white noise machine or app, which is a great option if you live in a noisy area.
- Put items in your room that will absorb and/or deflect sound. If you've ever been in an empty building, the reason why you hear such strong echoes is sound deflecting off the walls, floor, and ceiling, as there's nothing to absorb or deflect sound. Adding items like plants, carpeting or rugs, artwork, and cabinets will reduce the number of sound waves bouncing off a flat surface and onto another flat surface.
- Hang pieces of acoustic foam on your walls and ceiling, or hang them from your ceiling. A less expensive way to do this is to build a small wooden square, place a piece of foam from a fabric store inside, and cover it with whatever color fabric you like. You can hang several of these like you would hang a picture.
If you want to see how much improvement you've made in the amount of sound that makes it into your room, play music at a certain volume (such as level 5 on your stereo) before you make the changes, and then do the same after you've made the changes. If it improves, you'll have to turn your stereo up louder to get to the same decibel level as the sound is now being deflected and absorbed.
3. Lower the Temperature
The ideal temperature for sleep for most people is between 60 and 68 degrees. If you forget to change the temperature, install a programmable thermostat, and set your bedroom's temperature to lower an hour or two before you go to bed.
If you wake up during the night very warm, reduce the number of clothes that you wear to bed and the thickness of your blankets, and if that doesn't fix the issue, you may need to get a different mattress, which we discuss in the next point.
4. Find the Best Mattress for You
One of the most common problems people have with their mattresses is that they are often old, and therefore have indentations and/or don't give sufficient support. Most mattresses need to be replaced every 7-10 years, though it depends on the type of mattress you have.
Another issue is having a mattress that is too small. If you and your partner have a lot of pillows and bump into each other, it may be time to think about a King mattress. Also, make sure that your mattress absorbs movement from your partner so you're not disturbing each other during the night.
It's also important to find the right amount of firmness for you and your partner. One way to find this out is to sleep on another mattress that's softer or harder than your mattress. If you find that you wake up feeling better on one or the other, you may want to look into a different mattress. Many online mattress retailers offer a 100-day money-back guarantee for you to try out their mattresses.
The last mattress issue is heat. Foam mattresses compress and therefore don't allow heat to circulate away from your body.
There are a few options to remedy a hot mattress. One is to buy a new mattress. You can buy a traditional innerspring mattress, which tends to not be as soft but allows for more air circulation. Or you could opt for a mattress that combines gel with foam. You can also purchase a cooling unit that circulates cool water through a mattress topper throughout the night, such as the ChiliPad, which costs around $500. A cheaper option that you could start with is to buy a cooling mattress topper, such as one made with bamboo or wool.
If you get stressed looking at the items in your room, it may be time to find a new place for those items. Sleep experts explain that the bedroom is only for sleep and sex, so if your room is filled with items from work that you associate with stress, try moving those items to another area of your home.
It can also cause mental stress to have lots of different items in your room. Each item may remind you of a responsibility that you have or something that isn't relaxing. Stress, even subtle, can reduce the amount of quality sleep that you're getting.
6. Paint Your Room
One study from the hotel chain Travelodge in Britain found that wall color affected the amount of time that their 2,000 study participants slept. The top 5 colors with average sleep times are below.
The worst colors in the study are:
If you decide to paint your room, opt for a flat finish, as opposed to glossy, which will reflect more light. Also when deciding on a shade of a color, opt for the lighter, calmer shades.