We spend around 33 per cent of our lives in our bedroom, says Jonathan Charest, a behavioural sleep medicine specialist and representative for the Canadian Sleep Society. Ideally your bedroom is a calming environment, but certain factors—temperature, allergies, clutter, etc.—can prolong the journey to dreamland.
Talk to your doctor if you’re concerned about your sleep health, but do know that there are simple, budget-friendly tips you can apply to make your bedroom better for sleep. Here are seven of them:
1Install light-blocking window treatments.
Light exposure is one of the main factors that prevent people from sleeping, says Charest. Making your bedroom as dark as possible helps you maintain a healthy circadian rhythm (the part of our biological clock that helps regulate sleep).
A study in Germany found that that even exposure to dim lighting can interfere with your sleep cycle. Always turn off your bedside lamp before turning in and if your room gets a lot of daylight or streetlight, investing in some blackout shades might be a good idea, too.
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2Use ambient noise—like a bedroom fan—to block out distractions.
Sleep disruptions can cause negative impacts on your physical and mental health. One study published by the Sleep Research Society found that even everyday noises like traffic can wake you or shift your body into a lighter sleep stage. You can try disposable ear plugs to block the noise if your neighbour is throwing a party.
For a more consistent solution, consider using a source of relaxing ambient noise, like a white noise machine. In a small study published in Frontiers in Neurology, researchers found that exposure to broadband sounds helped reduce sleep onset latency (specifically the time it took to fall into stage two sleep) by 38 per cent. Even the sound of an electric fan can be enough to mask outside noises, says Charest.
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3Invest in a quality mattress, pillows and sheets.
Still can’t get comfortable? In one small study, researchers replaced participants’ beds with new ones—the change was associated with increased sleep quality and reduced back discomfort. The Canadian Chiropractic Association recommends considering a new mattress every ten years.
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4Set the thermostat for a cool night's sleep.
For ideal sleep hygiene (a set of behavioral and environmental recommendations that help improve sleep), keeping cool is key. A study published by the Sleep Research Society found that when the body’s core temperature drops at night, it helps you sleep—which is why a hot, stuffy room can lead to a restless night.
The ideal temperature for sleep is 17 to 19 C, says Charest—but that’s not a hard and fast rule. “If you’re too chilly, then adjust [the thermostat] to the temperature that’s best for you.”
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5Rid your room of allergens.
Allergies to dust, pollen or pet dander, can make it harder to fall asleep (who can doze off when they’re sneezing and wheezing?). Keep allergens at bay by dusting and vacuuming your bedroom regularly.
Zippered allergy-proof pillowcases and hypoallergenic mattress covers will also help prevent dust mites from making a home in your bedding, as will washing your bedding in hot water once a week. A study published in the International Journal of Indoor Environment and Health found that placing an air purifier with a HEPA filter in your room can help cut back on airborne allergens while you sleep.
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6Keep your space tidy with organizers, bins and hampers.
“It’s important to keep your bed and your bedroom tidy,” says Charest. “If you’re already a bit stressed and everything is all over the place in your room, it may be the factor that puts you over the edge.”
Take a few moments before you start your (or your kids’) bedtime routine to put dirty laundry in the hamper, and tidy toys or workout equipment. Keep organizing bins in the closet and under the bed to corral clutter.
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7Ban devices from your bedroom.
The blue light emitted from screens can prevent you from falling asleep by disrupting your body’s production of melatonin (the sleep hormone), according to a study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research. That’s why Charest recommends putting down your phone or tablet at least 30 to 45 minutes before bedtime. If you can, store your device outside the bedroom to avoid temptation.
“Your bed is your stop sign for your day—and you can’t arrive at a stop sign at full-speed.”
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- Psychiatry Investigation. Impact of Exposure to Dim Light at Night on Sleep in Female and Comparison with Male Subjects.
- Sleep. Single and combined effects of air, road, and rail traffic noise on sleep and recuperation.
- Frontiers in Neurology. Broadband Sound Administration Improves Sleep Onset Latency in Healthy Subjects in a Model of Transient Insomnia.
- Johns Hopkins Medicine. 4 Signs You Might Have Sleep Apnea.
- Journal of Chiropractic Medicine. Changes in back pain, sleep quality, and perceived stress after introduction of new bedding systems.
- Canadian Chiropractic Association. Tips for buying a mattress (and sleeping well).
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Improve Sleep: Tips to Improve Your Sleep When Times Are Tough.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Tips for Better Sleep.
- Sleep. Nighttime drop in body temperature: a physiological trigger for sleep onset?
- American Lung Association. Dust Mites.
- International Journal of Indoor Environment and Health. Use of air-cleaning devices to create airborne particle-free spaces intended to alleviate allergic rhinitis and asthma during sleep.
- Government of Canada, Dust and dust mites.
- Journal of Psychiatric Research. Blocking nocturnal blue light for insomnia: A randomized controlled trial.
- Monash University. Light the night? Monash research finds that some of us are hypersensitive to evening illumination
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