Following are tips to consider for improving your sleep surroundings to help awake feeling productive, mentally sharp, emotionally balanced and more energetic.
Positive Influences for Super Sleep
In a prominent spot from entering your bedroom or from your bed itself, place a picture or painting of a peaceful place that encourages you to visualize rest. By closing your eyes and imagining a place that’s calming, you can concentrate on how relaxed you feel.
Many people get soothing sleep benefits from white noise/nature sound devices that deliver sounds of ocean waves, white noise, fans, rain, stream gurgles or summer night chatter, especially if there are loud, distracting noises outside of your home to drown out, such as traffic.
Others get comfort from listening to soft music, preferably from a machine that has a timer that can be set to go off automatically in 15 to 30 minutes.
Smells can help prepare our bodies for deep sleep. One natural approach is to cut lemons and leave them in your bedroom overnight, adding sea salt to help preserve them, if you’d like. Lemon aroma can improve the function of your lungs and prevent breathing problems. For anyone who has asthma, colds and allergies, inhaling lemon aromas helps to naturally clean your throat and air passages. Alternatively, there are aroma diffusers with spa-like essential oils to mist the way to your personal Zen! Some diffusers come with lights and sound options as well.
Influences That Can Help or Hurt Sleep
Reading a book or listening to an audio book can go either way as a sleep aid tool, particularly for those dealing with a condition called delayed sleep phase syndrome. If the story plot is too engaging or is about solving a mystery, for example, it may prevent your mind from quieting itself for sleep. The same is true about voices of recorded books; you could get caught up in the excitement or emotion of the recording. On the other hand, some people swear by books to help them relax before sleeping; classic literature, science-based articles, educational-oriented textbooks or hardbacks with many photos seem to help. A good rule of thumb is to read before bed, but don’t read in bed. Read in a comfortable chair, then head to bed when you feel drowsy. Reading in bed can habituate you to not falling asleep.
Mattresses can lead to either proper and invigorating rest or unhealthy sleep, if they are out-of-date or ill-suited to your needs. In a survey conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, nine out of 10 respondents stated their mattress was important to their sleep experience. Survey participants were asked if they experience any problems when sleeping on their mattress on a 5-point scale from every night or almost every night to never.
About four in 10, or 41 percent, said they have problems with tossing and turning at least a few nights a week. Nearly one-fourth of the respondents (24 percent) said they have problems with partner movement when sleeping on their mattress at least a few nights a week. Fewer than two in 10 said they have the following problems when sleeping on their mattress at least a few nights a week:
- Lack of support leading to back and/or neck pain (18 percent);
- Mattress sags in the middle or on the edges (17 percent);
- Mattress is comfortable for one of us, but not the other (17 percent); and/or
- Can’t find a comfortable temperature (17 percent).
About one in 10 survey respondents said they have the following problems when sleeping on their mattress at least a few nights a week:
- Mattress is not big enough for me or my partner (11 percent);
- Mattress materials shift (10 percent);
- Mattress is too firm (8 percent); and/or
- Mattress is too soft (5 percent).
Negative Influences to Sound Sleep
Snacks have long been suggested as a way to help get back to sleep when someone’s suffering insomnia. But eating in bed, or having a bowl of something on which to nibble by your bed side, can delay your body’s ability to wind down and go to sleep. It also can increase the risk of developing gastroesophageal reflux disease, or acid reflux, which definitely influences overall sleep quality.
Cigarettes or electronic cigarettes contain nicotine, which can act as a stimulant, and thus could slow down your body’s sleep preparation.
Backlit screens, or blue lights emitted by cell phones, tablets, computers or TVs can be especially disruptive to sleep, because blue wavelengths have the greatest impact on circadian rhythm, or the average 24-hour biological cycle of living beings. Tablets that are backlit reportedly are more disruptive than e-readers that don’t have their own light source. You can minimize the impact on sleep by using devices with smaller screens, turning the brightness down, or using light-altering software. Medical sources recommend avoiding bright screens within 1 to 2 hours of your bedtime.
Although unwelcomed news to some, studies indicate watching TV in bed is detrimental to your health. Not only does the light from a TV suppress melatonin, which is a sleep-regulating hormone, but the essence of many TV programs are stimulating rather than relaxing.
Overall light levels in bedrooms can be culprits robbing sleep. When it’s time to sleep, make sure the room is dark. Use heavy curtains or shades to block light from windows, or try a sleep mask. Use lamps, rather than full lights, if you get up during the night. If you need some light to move around safely, try installing a dim nightlight in the hall or bathroom or using a small flashlight, which will make it easier for you to fall back to sleep.
Charging stations, or charging electronic devices by your bedside or on your pillows, can keep you awake. Even the handy light signaling your items are charging on your devices is bright enough to disrupt sleep, especially if they happen to glow blue. Moving the charging station to another room of your home solves the challenge. You may want to consider covering up electronics at night, if they must stay in your bedroom, or charging your technology units in the morning while you get ready for the day.