Getting the sleep that you need should be as easy as laying your head on the pillow and closing your eyes. Unfortunately, many people find that turning out the lights and lying down is the opening act to a night spent staring at the ceiling and trying desperately to feel drowsy. If you are one of the millions who find falling asleep each night a challenge and you’re looking for a solution, the National Sleep Foundation suggests that you start by taking a good look at your bedroom.
According to the nonprofit organization, which is dedicated to helping people learn how to get a better night’s sleep, it’s important to make sure that your bedroom is a welcoming, relaxing sanctuary that serves as your magic carpet to getting away from the day’s stress and into the restorative eight hours of snoozing that you need. Their sleep experts suggest that you design a sleep-friendly bedroom that will provide each of your senses with valuable cues that it is time to get some shut-eye. Here are their top tips for how to accomplish that.
Starting with your sense of touch, the National Sleep Foundation suggests that you check to make sure that your body is fully comfortable when you go to sleep. This starts with the temperature that you have the room set to, and extends to the sleeping surface that you are resting on. Your bedroom thermostat should be set to about 65 degrees. Though this may seem cool as compared to what is comfortable when you are awake, your body’s core temperature naturally sinks each night while you’re sleeping until an hour or two before it’s time for you to wake up, when it starts to rise again. Having your room cool signals your body that it is time to get sleepy. It is also important to make sure that your mattress, pillows, sheets and pajamas are all comfortable. The group suggests that you take the time to make your bed each morning because when you enter your bedroom at night and see a neat, clean bed, it is more conducive to a good night’s sleep.
Though at first the idea of your sight impacting your sleep seems counterintuitive, it is a fact that your body’s ability to sleep is impacted by the amount of light that is present in your room. This means that you should take the time to make sure that your windows are fully covered so that outside light can’t get in, and if your bedroom door allows light underneath from a lit hallway, it is a good idea to put a towel or some other piece of fabric in front of it to block its impact. The electronic devices that you have in your room can have a powerful negative impact on your ability to sleep, ranging from the alarm clock’s glowing LED lights to reading articles on your tablet before you go to bed. Turn them all off for at least an hour or two before you go to bed, and turn your clock’s face to the wall to keep yourself from looking at it or being distracted by it.
Noise has a powerful effect on your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. Though you may think that once you’ve fallen asleep you don’t hear small sounds, science has shown that your brain does register audio interruptions, and they can wake you up. You may not be aware of the awakening because it might be brief, but it interrupts your body’s rest and has a negative effect on how you will feel the next day. One of the best ways that you can counter exterior noise and make sure that sound is working in your favor towards a solid night of sleep is to purchase a white noise machine, which creates a transition between ambient noise and interrupting noise. Scientists suggest that falling asleep with a television on in the room prevents your brain from fully relaxing, so if you fall asleep to the sound of a television make sure that you program the set’s sleep timer. If you sleep in an area that is noisy, whether it is from city sounds or bird song, noise pollution can create tension that reduces your sleep quality. Keeping a fan on in the room, or any other kind of hum, will counter the effect of this disruptive noise.
Our sense of smell is integral to our ability to relax – this is why aromatherapy has become such a popular alternative therapy. If you want to make sure that your bedroom provides a soothing environment, you can help by using the smell of lavender, which has been shown to have a physiological effect that lowers heart rate and blood pressure. You can add fragrance in a few ways, including using scented candles before bedtime, applying essential oils to your pillowcase, or tucking sachets into the drawers where you stow your pajamas. It is also important to keep out disruptive smells or things that may aggravate allergies
Though you don’t want to have food in the bedroom, your sense of taste can have a powerful impact on your ability to fall asleep based on the things that you eat and drink before you go to bed. Beyond the obvious suggestions about avoiding caffeine for several hours before bedtime and staying away from alcohol, it is also helpful to eat foods that are high in their tryptophan levels in order to increase your body’s serotonin and induce drowsiness. Eating carbohydrates also makes tryptophan more readily available, so having crackers, peanut butter, cereal or milk before bed is a good idea, while eating foods that are spicy, heavy or fried will probably keep you awake.