It’s no secret that many people have a hard time falling asleep and staying asleep through the night. The overuse of electronic devices plays a large role in our rising lack of sleep, but there are other factors that contribute to the problem. Pre-bedtime habits often affect the quality of our sleep, as well as our ability to fall asleep quickly. Healthy, relaxing bedroom arrangements are also essential to great sleep – even the color of your walls can help you sleep better! If you’re like me, you’ve struggled with sleep, which has affected every aspect of your life. I’ve done the research, and I’m working on changing my sleeping habits so I can rest well and feel better. I’ve compiled a list of best practices that have helped me improve my sleep and my life.
Block out inconsistent, jarring noises
Jarring or inconsistent noises throughout the night interrupt sleep. Blocking out the noise with a fan – ceiling or standing, a sound machine, or earplugs will help you rest and sleep more deeply. I’ve used a fan to help me sleep since I was little; the white noise helps me fall asleep quickly. The only downside to using a fan is that eventually you associate the noise with sleep, which becomes a problem when your boss uses a fan in the summer to keep his office cool.
Maintain your mattress
I was surprised to learn that the age of your mattress can greatly affect your sleep. When it comes to mattresses, you want one that conforms to your body and sleeping needs – this includes the firmness of the mattress and the age. You should change your mattress every 7-8 years for the best quality. When you go shopping for a new mattress, talk to a mattress expert about your sleep habits. This information will help the expert pick out the mattress that is best for you. Another good rule is to wear comfortable clothing while mattress shopping, so you can test different mattresses for comfort levels.
Another mattress issue that can affect your sleep is the overall cleanliness. If not cleaned properly and often, dust mites will burrow deep into your mattress, triggering allergies and preventing you from deep sleep. Plan to vacuum your mattress once a week when you change your bedding.
Use the right pillow
Ideally, your neck should be aligned with your spine. According to Business Insider, if you normally sleep on your back, you should use a medium-firm pillow; you may want to elevate your legs with a pillow for back support as well. Use a round pillow or rolled up blanket – place under your knees. For side sleepers firm pillows are best – the edge of the pillow should be right in the crook of your neck for maximum support. You should also use a pillow between your lower legs if you like to sleep on your side – from your knee down – this helps reduce lower back pain. Although sleep doctors say sleeping on your stomach is bad for your spine – it rotates the spine – many people find the position comfortable. If you’re someone who just loves sleeping on your stomach, use a soft pillow to cradle your head.
Yep, even your bed sheets play a role in your sleep, and it isn’t just the cleanliness of the sheets that matters. The average person produces up to a ½ gallon of sweat while they sleep – that sweat gets trapped on the top of synthetic fabrics, making your bed feel swampy. Yuck!
Buy natural fiber sheets – like cotton or bamboo – that will absorb and wick moisture from your body. Natural fiber sheets breathe better than synthetic – allowing cool air and body heat to move freely.
Take a hot shower or bath in the evening
A warm or hot shower relaxes your muscles and increases your body temperature. Once you leave the hot/warm water, your body temperature starts to cool. The change in body temperature helps induce sleep. Cool showers may also be beneficial because brain cooling results in deep REM sleep.
Reduce blue light
Electronic devices and televisions emit blue light. Any type of light before bedtime isn’t good for you – it throws off your circadian rhythm – your body’s biological clock. Blue light, although great for the daytime hours, disrupts sleep more than other light by suppressing the secretion of melatonin – twice as much as an average light. Your best bet is to remove all electronics from your bedroom, including TVs. This may be difficult, especially if you are used to watching TV before you hit the sack – but it will improve your sleep immensely.
Create a single-focused space
Your bedroom should be a single purpose space: Rest & Relaxation (R&R). Workout equipment and desks add stress and clutter to your zen space. Why is this so important? When you repeatedly do something in a room, your body starts associating that activity with the room. If you often do work in your bedroom, your body will start to associate the room with work and stress. Televisions in your bedroom can also be negative, especially if you get into the habit of watching TV late at night – the blue light keeps you awake, and engaging programs prevent your mind from resting. Limit your bedroom activities to, well, bedroom activities – sleep, rest, and romance – your body will thank you.
Keep your room dark
Your body’s natural clock associates light with daytime, making it difficult to slow down and enter sleep. Get rid of night lights or lamps that produce too much light. Buying blackout curtains or blinds will also help, especially in the summer months when nights are shorter. Additionally, exposing yourself to natural light for 10+ minutes every morning will help your body wake up and prepare for the day.
Keep your room cool
Most sources say the best temperature for a bedroom is between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. This number seemed really cold to me, but it seems that allowing your body to cool helps you sleep better and longer. Sleeping naked can help keep your body temperature low as it eliminates additional fabrics that lock in body heat.
Aromatherapy is relaxing and rejuvenating. Certain scents, such as lavender, invoke relaxing, calm scents that allow your mind to slow down. The more you use particular scents to help you fall asleep, the more likely your body will be to associate sleep with those scents – invoking sleep easily.
Paint your room in warm, natural colors
Researchers say the color of your room can impact the amount of sleep you get. Blue, yellow, and green are the best colors for rest, while brown, purple, and grey are the worst. Creative colors, like purple, engage the brain, while dreary colors like brown and gray depress the brain. Light colors seem to be more associated with happiness and peacefulness, feelings that help you relax and drift into sleep.
Keep it tidy and clean
Decluttering your room will help create zen and tranquility in your space. I suggest using storage bins and reorganizing your closet to maximize your space. Making sure your room is clean – yes, even under your bed – is easier when your items are organized and can help you sleep. Dust triggers allergies – and sets off asthma – which can keep you from getting proper rest. Changing your bedding, cleaning your mattress, and sweeping under your bed can reduce dust particles and help you sleep with ease.
I’ve incorporated some other practices into my bedtime routine that seem to help. One has to do with my alarm. I usually use the alarm setting on my phone, but I always make sure the phone is placed face down, so I’m not distracted by the light. If you have a digital alarm clock, try turning it to face away from you, so you don’t stare at the clock and prevent yourself from falling asleep. Putting your alarm clock on the other side of the room will help you wake up and stay up in the morning. I’ve also created a relaxing pre-bedtime routine: I read or meditate in the last hour before bedtime, and, although my son hates it, I’ve made a no TV/electronics rule for the last hour of the day. Finally, I invested in an air purifier that I leave on most of the time. I not only sleep better, but I breathe better.
Just remember, changing your sleep habits is not an overnight process. I recommend working on one tip at a time – it worked for me, and it can work for you too. Quality sleep can decrease your risk of heart disease and a number of other illnesses, so stop making excuses and start living the life you deserve.
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