Creating an oasis for sleep improves your health, relationships and productivity
The importance of getting an adequate amount of quality sleep every night absolutely can’t be overstated. Unfortunately, we live in a culture where sleeping enough tends to be equated with laziness. Our colleagues and friends often participate in the “Exhaustion Olympics” to compare who can get the most done on the least amount of sleep, as though this should be worn as a medal of honor.
The way our culture currently undervalues sleep is actually very unhealthy. Not only should you be striving to get enough hours of sleep every night, but you should also do your best to ensure that this sleep is deep and restful. If you’ve ever woken up after eight hours of rest feeling like you haven’t slept at all, you can understand this distinction I’m talking about here.
You’re probably thinking that this is one of those “easier said than done” situations, but that is not the case at all. Scientists have performed countless studies on simple ways to improve the quantity and quality of your sleep, so I’m going to break down some of the most important findings for you and review eight tips on how to easily transform your bedroom into an oasis for sleep.
The consequences of lack of sleep
What happens to our bodies and brains when we don’t sleep enough? You might be shocked to learn how dangerous missing out on sleep is.
Experts believe that sleep is the time of day when our bodies perform repairs, but losing out on that time affects more than cell recovery. Sleep deprivation has pretty serious effects on cognitive functions and normal body processes too. We become more susceptible to illness, and our overall mental state suffers. One recent study shows that even brief sleep deprivation wreaks havoc on our body chemistry.
Getting enough sleep can literally be the difference between living a joyful, fulfilling life and living a sick, dreary life. Now that you understand a bit more about how important sleep is to your physical and mental health, we can dive into the nuts and bolts for optimizing your bedroom and sleeping habits to create the ideal conditions for a proper night’s rest every evening.
Practice good sleep hygiene
Everyone knows that good hygiene is essential to staying happy and healthy. You may not realize it, but this extends into your sleep habits too. Sleep hygiene includes practices such as being mindful of your daytime habits and your sleep-wake cycle.
You may also see your sleep-wake cycle referred to as your circadian rhythm. A circadian rhythm is essentially your body’s biological clock for when you should be awake and when you should be asleep. This typically translates to about eight hours of sleep during the night and roughly 16 hours of wakefulness during the day. Small percentages of people have slightly longer or shorter sleep-wake cycles; these people are usually the ones you know as “night owls” or “early birds.” Your body’s circadian rhythm is controlled by the rise and fall of certain hormone levels, which means that disruption in your body’s normal sleep patterns can cause these hormone levels to get out of sync and further disrupt your natural sleep schedule.
Beginning with paying attention to your sleep-wake cycle, follow these sleep hygiene tips for better rest:
- Listen to your body’s bedtime cues
Being mindful of when you’re most alert and when you’re tired can give you clues to your body’s particular sleep-wake cycle. If possible, it is best to follow your body’s cues and start to wind down your day when you begin to feel sleepy.
- Adjust the bedroom temperature
Throughout the night, your body experiences small temperature fluctuations. As you approach bedtime, your body’s temperature falls to help conserve energy while you sleep. This means that if you’re too hot when you get into bed, you will have a difficult time sleeping.
Warmer body temperatures signal wakefulness to your brain, so aim to keep your bedroom a little cooler than the rest of the house at night. Experts usually recommend keeping your bedroom temperature within the range of 60 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit for optimal sleeping conditions.
- Remove all electronics
You might be someone who uses a smartphone as an alarm clock, and that’s okay as long as you don’t have much screen time in the few hours before you are trying to fall asleep. Spending time in front of electronic devices too close to bedtime can disrupt your body’s processes for winding down and falling asleep at night.
Your body sets its biological clock to the external cues of light and dark, so too much bright light from a television, smartphone or computer screen can send your brain the wrong cues and keep you up at night.
- Make your bedroom inviting
Your bedroom should have a completely unique look and feel from the rest of your house. This can mean a soothing, contrasting color from the other rooms, a comforting scent diffused through the room or soft lighting rather than fluorescent fixtures. Setting up your bedroom with an inviting atmosphere will trigger your body’s natural relaxation mechanisms and help set you up for a better, deeper sleep.
- Limit your bedroom use
Bedrooms should only be used for sleeping and sex. If you tend to sit in your bed and watch television, work, eat or otherwise multitask, you are training your brain that getting into bed doesn’t mean it’s time to relax. This can lead to feeling wide awake—as if your brain simply won’t shut off when it actually is time to sleep.
Remove as much clutter from your bedroom as possible and keep the space free from work, laundry, electronics and anything else that can be a distraction to you. Doing this helps to make the association between sleep and the bedroom stronger, so you don’t feel restless or anxious when you go to bed at night.
- Splurge on comfort
You spend at least 33 percent of your life sleeping, so if there was ever a time to treat yourself, this is it. Investing in a good, quality mattress with a proper pillow and appealing, comfortable bedding can make a huge difference in your sleep. Be sure to wash your bedding, fluff your pillows and turn your mattress at regular intervals to ensure your bed stays as comfortable and relaxing as possible.
- Keep the room dark
This goes back to your sleep-wake cycle. If you aren’t comfortable in complete darkness, or you have to get up during the night, invest in a few night lights with red bulbs. Red light does not trigger your body’s internal clock, so using red lights that are low to the ground will not disrupt your sleep pattern.
- If you’re restless, get up
Sometimes, even if you have great sleep hygiene, you simply can’t get to sleep. If this happens, it is best to get up and leave the bedroom after 20 or 30 minutes of restlessness. Try to keep your activity very low-key, and do your best to stay off of your phone or computer. Getting up and leaving the room when you can’t sleep helps to prevent your brain from associating the bedroom with restlessness and wakefulness.
Sometimes, moving into a different room and drinking herbal tea or listening to relaxing music can help you feel sleepy. You can also try following one of my guided meditations to quiet your mind and help you sleep. When you begin to feel tired, return to your bedroom.
Better sleep habits can lead to a better life
Sleep is one of the most important things you will do in a day. You cannot live a happy, fulfilling life with poor sleep habits. Transforming your bedroom into a haven for sleep can help you transform your life into a happier, brighter existence.