Fast-track to a better sleep
The 8 Elements of a Perfect Sleep Environment
Our sleep environment plays a big role in the quality of our sleep. During the deepest stages of sleep; our tissues grow, our muscles relax and our energy is replenished. If you manage seven hours of deep sleep, your body goes into complete repair mode. Sleep restores our hormones, our skin cells, liver functions, heart health, memory and so much more. It has a direct impact on our work life, mood and relationships with others.
So considering that on average, we spend a third of our lives sleeping; it’s incredibly important that we ensure our bedroom is a place where we can easily fall and stay asleep. A place for total rejuvenation; for the body and mind.
1. Power Down Hour
Light works with our natural circadian rhythm. So when it’s dark, our body prepares for sleep and releases the sleep hormone melatonin. As the sun rises, we begin to wake up too. Bearing this in mind; it’s important to get rid of any artificial light in your house. At least an hour before you intend to go to sleep; initiate what you can call your ‘power down hour’. Begin to dim the lights in your house as you transition towards bedtime. Stop using your electronics as they emit blue light which can suppress melatonin.
Dr Dirk Jan Stenvers from Amsterdam University Medical Centre, presented research findings at the European Society of Endocrinology Annual Meeting 2019 (https://www.ese-hormones.org/media/1885/sleep_light_stenvers_pr_final.pdf). He found that sleep complaints could be easily reversed by minimising evening screen use or exposure to blue light.
Red light however, is proven to stimulate melatonin. So if you can incorporate something like a himalayan salt lamp in your bedroom; then plug this in and let the pink hues work their magic. The ambient glow is bright enough to read a book in bed, yet soft enough to fall asleep with.
2. Clean and Clear
A study which was conducted by New York’s St. Lawrence University (https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-06/aaos-par060815.php), has shown that a messy bedroom could lead to a poor night’s sleep and increased anxiety. Each day, invest some time to ensure your space is clean and clutter free.
Another thing to avoid is using your bedroom as your work space, or a place to watch TV. This can keep your mind active and interfere with your sleeping habits.
3. Room Temperature
Creating the perfect temperature is important to trigger your body into sleep mode. Your body hits it’s highest heat in the evenings and then drops to it’s lowest as you fall asleep. So somewhere between 16-18°C is the perfect setting for a sweet slumber. Anything higher than 24°C will cause you to be restless and anything lower than 12°C will make it hard to drop off. Experiment with what feels right for you as our inner thermostat varies from person to person.
4. Invest in your Sleeping Arrangement
When was the last time you bought a new mattress? Has it been eight years? If so, it’s definitely time start shopping for a new one now. Your current one will have lost most, if not all of it’s original comfort and support.
Sheets and duvet are also important, but if you’re a restless or anxious person, you could also consider buying a weighted blanket. They have been proven to induce longer periods of sleep when used by insomniacs. A 2009 study in the journal Occupational Therapy in Mental Health (Insert hyperlink https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1300/J004v24n01_05) asked 33 adults to rest under 30-lb. (13.6 kg) blankets for 5 minutes. Nineteen participants said they felt more relaxed with the blanket, contributing to a better night’s sleep.
Essential oils can really have a powerful affect on the way we feel and Lavender oil has always been a well known remedy for sending us to sleep faster. This particular herb combats anxiety which is one of the primary factors that keeps us from dozing off. It lowers our heart rate, blood pressure and skin temperature; and keeps us in a slow-wave sleep. It’s wonderful aroma is just a bonus. How to administer this blend? Simply dab the essential oil on our wrists, temples or neck before bedtime. You can also use an aromatherapy diffuser and switch it on during your ‘power down hour’ as you prepare for sleep.
6. Sound is Key
Try and minimise or eradicate all outside noise as much as possible. For those of who have embraced urban living and reside in a particularly noisy area; we suggest some good quality ear plugs.
A beneficial kind of sound is pink noise. Pink noise has a lower frequency and a softer sound than white noise. It mimics the sound of rain, a river running or the soft whirring of a fan.
According to a study published on Wednesday in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience in 2017 (https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnhum.2017.00109/full), pink noise has been shown to enhance brain activity that is connected with deep phases of sleep. It allows for better memory formation and the re-energisation of the brain. You can find pink noise audio online or buy mini pink noise sound generators to sit on your bedside table.
7. Cleanliness Leads to Sleepiness
Nothing feels more luxurious then getting into bed with clean sheets straight off the washing line. The smell and feel of crisp linen has actually been proven to improve the quality of your sleep. An impressive 73% of people surveyed by the National Sleep Foundation in 2012 said they were able to get a better night’s sleep on fresh sheets - and 85% reported general sleeping improvements.
Another reason to wash your sheets is that dirt and allergens that survive off dead skin, can build up and settle onto your pillow, sheets and mattress. This can trigger allergies as well as asthma and interfere with your respiratory system; thus keeping you awake.
8. Plan your Wakeup
Being woken up abruptly to an ear piercing noise is a terrible feeling and can set you off on the wrong foot when it comes to starting your day. Try a soothing alarm tone, which slowly gets louder. For the more tech savvy, you could invest in a sunrise alarm clock which simulates a sunrise and wakes you up with light rather than noise.