No one really knows why we spend one-third of our lives under the covers. Not the passive state many people once considered it to be, sleep is now known to be a highly active process during which the day’s events are processed and energy is restored. Research into the science behind sleep has been, well, sleepy.
Statistically, we spend as much or more time in our beds as we do anywhere else. So it is important to make sure that your sleep environment is promoting health in as many ways as possible. Improving your sleep environment can have lasting benefits to other aspects of your life, including your physical health, mental focus and even work performance.
How to Create the Perfect Sleep Environment
Make Your Bed an Oasis From the World. Comfortable, breathable bedding is essential for a good night's sleep. Keep an extra blanket at the foot of the bed. During colder months this will come in handy when you want to curl up for an afternoon nap. Add a touch of luxury in the form of petal soft sheets and cozy pillows and you may find yourself crawling into bed earlier than planned - never a bad idea!
Surround Yourself with Scents that Relax You. Classic scents like lavender have been shown to reduce blood pressure and decrease your heart rate. Place a few fresh sprigs into a small vase beside your bed or use a few drops of lavender essential oil onto a scent free dryer sheet. Calming scents, used frequently, will trigger your body letting you know it's time for bed.
Power Down Before Bed. The light from computer screens, televisions, and phones can hinder the production of melatonin, which means your body isn't preparing the hormones it needs to enter the sleep phase. Specifically, it is the blue wavelength of light that seems to decrease melatonin production. Develop a “power down” routine where you shut off all electronics an hour or two before sleep. Additionally, working late at night can keep your mind racing and your stress levels high, which also prevents the body from calming down for sleep. Turn off the screens and read a book instead. It's the perfect way to learn something useful and power down before bed.
Use Muted Colors. Your room should be calm and peaceful. Choosing muted colors in the blue, gray and green family will instantly relax you.
Use the Bedroom for Sleep. Is your bedroom designed to promote good sleep? The ideal sleeping environment is dark, cool, quiet and comfortable. Eliminate TVs, laptops, electronics, and clutter. When you go to the bedroom, go there to sleep.
Turn Off the Lights. Dim the lights in your house and reduce blue or full-spectrum light in your environment. Because you can’t control the street lights outside or security lights set off by a neighborhood cat, look into black out curtains to maintain consistent sleep.
Keep it Cool. Temperature is an important factor for great sleep. It is so important, in fact, that one initial study showed that insomniacs who wore cooling caps that helped reduce body temperature were able to sleep as soundly and for the same amount of time as those without sleep disorders. A room that is too hot or too cold can affect sleep quality and even reduce the quality of REM sleep. Most experts recommend a bedroom temperature of 62-68 degrees with comfortably warm bedding and socks.
Daily Tips for Better Sleep
Soak Up the Sun. Vitamin D plays an enormous factor in regulating your body's Circadian rhythm. Aim for at least 30 minutes of sun exposure each day.
Use Gentle Relaxation Techniques. Find outlets to reduce your stress and you'll often find that better slumber comes as a result. Proven methods include daily journaling, deep breathing exercises, meditation, exercise (at least 2 hours before bedtime), and keeping a gratitude journal. Making this a nightly ritual will clue your body in to the fact that it's time for bed.
Avoid caffeine. Eliminate caffeine from your diet if you're having trouble falling asleep. If you can't go without your morning cup of coffee, then a good rule of thumb to keep in mind is “no coffee after noon.” This gives caffeine enough time to wear off before bed time.
Make Your Bed. Studies have shown that establishing the daily habit of bed making allows for a more productive day. Make your bed before you leave for work. You'll will set yourself up for success and will love coming home to a calm and neat bedroom after a long day.