Creating a Healthy Sleep Environment
All individuals are different when it comes to what helps them fall asleep. The following aspects of the sleep environment are all important in inducing sleep and being well rested.
Bedding and Comfort
Comfort is a very important aspect to consider when preparing for bed. It is important to have a comfortable mattress, a firm pillow appropriate to your sleep position and comfortable bedding that does not heat up easily. Mattresses come in a variety of fashions such as memory foam, latex and innerspring. Mattress toppers and covers are a cheaper alternative to buying a new mattress. Some have cooling technology to help with heat regulation. Likewise, pillows come in memory foam, latex and natural-fill such as down, feather or synthetic fiber. Bedding should also be clean, cool, and comfortably soft. 1
Keeping the room clean and uncluttered is very important when going to sleep. Having paperwork, mail, clothes or dishes everywhere can cause stress and make you too alert to fall asleep. By only using the room for sleep, you will reduce clutter and train your brain to associate the room with sleeping. Decorating with peaceful pictures or photos from an enjoyed vacation may help with relaxation and induce sleep. 1 Painting the room in peaceful colors such as shades of blue, green, or purple have also proven to help individuals relax.
In the National Sleep Foundation’s Annual American Sleep Poll in 2011, 95 percent of individuals surveyed between 13 to 63 years old reported going to sleep with the television on. 2 Sleeping with the television on can, not only, keep the brain too alert for sleep but also provide a great deal of light. Light reduces natural melatonin production in the brain, which helps to induce sleep. 2 Even hiding digital clocks may prevent clock watching because of the light output. If you need absolute dark to fall and stay asleep, you may consider buying dark curtains or drapes to block streetlights or sunlight from coming in the windows.
The ideal sleeping temperature is around 65 degrees. Sleeping in too warm or too cool environments can force the body to exert energy on sweating or shivering, keeping the body too alert for sleep. Figure out the right mixture of sleep clothes, blankets, and room temperature to make you the most comfortable at night.
If you have ever incorporated the sound of the television or the alarm clock into a dream, then you understand how noise can affect sleep. Individuals’ noise sensitivity varies. Some may enjoy ambient sound or soft music when falling asleep. Sound should be at a low level and consistent because sudden sounds can spike heart rates and cause waking. You will most likely adjust to certain noises as you cope with them over time such as city traffic or the ticking of a clock. 1
In the National Sleep Foundation’s 2005 Sleep in America Poll, 38 percent of participants reported that they had problems in their relationship due to their sleep partner’s sleep disorder. 2 Even peaceful sleepers can toss and turn 50 to 60 times in one night. 1 If a snoring bed partner is a problem, elevating their head with pillows, or an adjustable bed may be helpful. Using earplugs may also help block out the sound. Another disruptive bed partner could be your pet. Pets can make noise and move all through the night (they don’t need eight hours of sleep because they sleep throughout the day). It is best to train pets to sleep in a pet bed.
Overall, adjusting your sleep environment can make major differences in your quality of sleep. These adjustments are very simple and easily managed. The sleep environment is often overlooked by troubled sleepers and can improve sleep disorder symptoms and overall well-being.
1. Maas, Dr. James B., Megan L. Wherry, David J Axelrod, Barbara R. Hogan, and Jennifer A. Blumin. Power Sleep: The Revolutionary Program That Prepares Your Mind for Peak Performance. New York : Villard, 1998.
2. National Sleep Foundation—The Sleep Environment; http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/how-sleep-works/the-sleep-environment