We’re in an age of the internet, smartphones and non-stop high pressure jobs, which mean most of us, are partaking in activities that have a negative effect on our sleep.
In order to enjoy a restful night’s sleep, you must pay some attention to your environment.
Hot, cold and draughty rooms can seriously impact on your sleep. Your body heat peaks in the evening and then drops to its lowest levels when you’re asleep, so a cool 16-18°C (60-65°F) is thought to be an ideal temperature in a bedroom. Temperatures over 24°C (71°F) are likely to cause restlessness, while a cold room of about 12°C (53°F) will make it difficult to drop off.
Young children and elderly people may require a slightly warmer environment, so it’s useful to invest in a room thermometer to keep track of temperatures. It’s also worth purchasing a range of suitable bedding depending on the season – an extra layer of sheets or blankets will make you more comfortable when it’s cold, as will a hot water bottle or a good pair of bed socks for cold feet.
Have you ever wondered why darkness is best for sleep? When we see light, our bodies assume it’s time to wake up. When it’s dark, we release melatonin, which relaxes the body and helps us to drift off.
There’s nothing worse than being rudely awoken by the early morning sun, so try blackout blinds or an eye mask.
If you like to read in bed, buy a dimmer light. You can also purchase alarm clocks with handy light settings, which dim slowly to help you drift off, and then brighten to wake you gradually in the morning.
The biggest no-no is mobile phones and computer screens; these LED displays glow with blue light, which suppresses melatonin even more.
Your bed is by far the most significant element of a good night’s rest. It is near impossible to get a deep, effective sleep on an uncomfortable bed. Mattresses lacking comfort, space and support are likely to leave you waking tired and achy, and will also have a significant impact on your partner’s sleep, too.
Everyone is made differently, which is why different beds suit different bodies. You should select the best mattress for you, offering the correct support and comfort for your weight and build, and if someone else is going to be sharing the bed, spend extra time finding a bed that’s mutually comfortable.
When we’re asleep it’s recommended that we maintain a good posture; a mattress too soft will cause us to slouch, while one that’s too firm can apply pressure to our hips and shoulders.
Large beds are always recommended, as they provide partners with plenty of space. Make sure you can both lie comfortably side by side without touching: you should both be able to put your hands behind your head and stick your elbows out without poking each other!
Something else to consider is the base that you’re using. Sometimes mattresses and bed bases don’t work well together, and the base that you tested out in the shop could be very different to the one you have at home. As such, it’s recommended that mattresses and bases are bought together, or alternatively make sure you test out your new mattress on a base that’s similar to your existing one.
Finally, bear in mind that most beds should be replaced after around seven years. It might not look worn out, but you can guarantee it doesn’t offer the same comfort and support as it did originally. And when you learn that we lose around half a pint of fluid every night, and shed a pound of dead skin cells each year, you might be keener on a trip to the mattress shop!
Gadgets and Gizmos
Bedrooms are a place for rest, relaxation and intimacy. Unfortunately, many of us consider our bedrooms as extensions of our living rooms and studies, and so introduce digital distractions into the mix.
While there’s nothing wrong with watching a film, playing games or answering emails, these tasks should not be completed in bed.
Your bedroom is your sanctuary – a calm, relaxed space that has no requirement for technological toys. TVs, computers, phones and tablets prevent us from falling asleep, and can also be disruptive throughout the night. Beeps, buzzes and even the tiniest standby lights can wreak havoc with the body’s circadian rhythm, so make sure everything is switched off at the mains or, even better, banned completely!
It goes without saying that loud, sudden or repetitive noises can interrupt sleep.
One of the best ways to combat this is with double glazing, as it muffles sounds from outside.
You can also use foam ear plugs, which are particularly effective in the warmer months when you may leave a window open. While certain noises cause interrupted sleep, soft, steady sounds can be soothing.
Some people have found that ‘white noise’ tapes help them fall asleep and sleep more soundly.
Temperature, lighting, comfort, gadgets and noise levels all impact on your sleep, and by adjusting these as recommended, you are sure to experience a much more restful night.
However, there is also another technique to incorporate into your perfect sleep environment: a relaxation routine.
There are many ways you can relax before bed.
- Run yourself a warm bubble bath around an hour before bedtime, which will help you to wind down and gently raise your temperature, thus triggering the sleep mechanism.
- Warm, milky drinks and herbal teas are also a good alternative to a late night caffeinated cuppa or alcohol.
- Lavender can also be used as a relaxation method, however it should never be used during pregnancy. If it’s appropriate for you, sprinkle a few drops of essential oil onto your pillow.
- You could also pop a fragrant diffuser on your bedtime table, or use a night cream that incorporates extracts of lavender.
- Swap your late night texting or social media scrolling for a good book. Spending half an hour reading is much more beneficial to your sleep, as bright screens are counterproductive to your sleep cycle.
- You could also play some soft, soothing music and practice yoga or breathing techniques.
All of these activities will put you in the right frame of mind for sleeping.
It’s also highly recommended that arguments are solved before bedtime. Conflicts can leave us stressed and angry, which can make it near impossible to fall asleep.
If you’re worried about something or have a heavy workload, make a list that can be revisited the next day.
Remember, nothing should prevent you from having a good night’s sleep; it is a basic human right, and everybody deserves to sleep soundly.
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