In our last article we discussed how our habits affect sleep, but we often give little thought to our sleeping environment. Basically, if there is a bed, we plop down onto it when bedtime rolls around, maybe turn on a TV and wait for sleep to come. For some, it may be a long wait.
I consider sleep, much like eating, a sacred act because it is literally life-giving! Perhaps it’s time to bring a new awareness and new intention to the space in which we sleep. Let’s explore the often-overlooked issue of your sleeping environment.
Temperature & Humidity
Let’s start with the temperature. Unless you are transitioning into menopause and night-sweats are making you miserable, I know its no fun to be in a cool room when all you want is warm and cozy when it’s bedtime. However, it actually helps you to have better quality sleep if the temperature in your room is between 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit. Our body temperature drops when we get to sleep and helping it along by starting with a cooler room will speed up the process of falling asleep. Weird, I know! An interesting study showed that people with insomnia have a consistently warmer core body temperature before falling asleep compared to healthier folks and it took two to four hours for their temperature to cool off enough to fall asleep.
If you live in an area where the air is dry and if you tend to experience congestion related to allergies, a humidifier can be a huge boon to making you more comfortable by helping to keep mucous pathways moist and allowing for more comfortable air passage and sleep.
Then there is something that is shockingly overlooked - your mattress. We now live in a time when there are variety of sleep surfaces, other that just an old-school coiled mattress. We have adjustable air beds, memory-foam, futons, with materials that wick heat or that make you feel hotter. So many to choose from, but people don’t often think about replacing worn out beds until they start experiencing significant back and/or neck pain when waking, and come to the realization that their bed is probably to blame. Another tidbit is that traditional mattresses can also become a repository of millions of dust mites (yuck!) which can kick up allergies in sensitive people. Getting the right support for your body is critical and having a hygienic place to sleep is important.
Controlling the light in your room is also an element that can influence sleep. Aside from the blue-light issue we discussed in part 1 of this series, just having too much light on can impair your ability to sleep. Using inexpensive dimmer switches on bedside lamps to dim the light and keeping overhead lights off can help you fall asleep. Don’t forget about your window coverings too. If light is leaking through them, that can be a source of sleep interference. When it comes to blackout window coverings, just know that having a pitch-dark room when it’s time to wake up can actually be a problem and you might find yourself feeling a little groggy. It is helpful to have coverings that will allow your room to darken but also allow natural light to filter in. This helps the body to produce a rise in hormones that helps wake you up in the morning (more on hormones in part 3 of this series).
Let’s talk about bedding. Starting with sheets. A survey of 1000 Americans by Coyuchi, a home textile company found that 44% of people washed their sheets only once or twice a month, 11% washed them once a quarter and 5% washed them only once or twice a year. You can make your own judgements about that, but from both a comfort and cleanliness perspective, a weekly wash can only add to the enjoyment of getting between the sheets. Fabrics matter too. Cotton may be preferable because as a natural fiber, it is “breathable”, yet absorbent, odor-resistant, hypoallergenic, easy to maintain and more likely to keep your body at that cooler sleep temperature.
There is also something to be said for the visual esthetic of lovely bedding and a well-made bed. Hotels know this, especially higher-end establishments where they create a sumptuously inviting bedroom that just screams “relaxation zone!”
When you are tired and ready to go to sleep at the end of the day, what is going to be more appealing to you: a rumpled, unmade bed, maybe with is a jumble of stuff on top of it and a lot of clutter around or a serene, uncluttered, freshly made bed with big fluffy pillows just begging you to lay-down your tired body so it can get a good night’s sleep?
Here are the top 5 tips for upgrading your sleeping environment:
Photo by Jackman Chiu on Unsplash
I'm Carmina McGee, MS, RDN, and my mission is to support women to live their happiest, healthiest lives and THRIVE!