Bedroom setup for a better sleep

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:

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1Invest in a quality mattress, pillows and sheets.

hands fluffing white pillows

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.[1] The Canadian Chiropractic Association recommends considering a new mattress every ten years.[2]

Good quality pillows can also increase your comfort.[3] Charest recommends having three sets of sheets (one dirty, one in the wash and one clean) so you’re not doing laundry before bedtime.

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2Keep your space tidy with organizers, bins and hampers.

hands putting folded sheets away inside neat 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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3Use ambient noise—like a bedroom fan—to block out distractions.

clean neutral condo bedroom with orange fan

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.[4] 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.[5] Even the sound of an electric fan can be enough to mask outside noises, says Charest.

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If your partner snores loudly, it could be a sign of sleep apnea—especially if their snoring is punctuated by pauses in breathing—and should be discussed with a medical professional.[6]

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4Install light-blocking window treatments.

hands installing a blackout window treatment

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.[7] 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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5Set the thermostat for a cool night's sleep.

woman setting thermostat before bed

For ideal sleep hygiene (a set of behavioral and environmental recommendations that help improve sleep)[8], 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.[9]

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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No need to cool the entire house down—a portable air conditioning unit or a fan can cut costs by offering room-specific temperature adjustments.

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6Rid your room of allergens.

woman vacuuming bedroom floor

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[10]. 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.[11]

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If possible, Health Canada recommends children’s bedrooms be on the highest floor of the home to reduce exposure to allergens, which are likelier to be found on lower floors, especially basements.[12]

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7Ban devices from your bedroom.

woman resting in bed with glass of water

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.[13] 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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Sleep Tip
Even small, dim lights from electronics like alarm clocks can keep you awake, according to one Australian study.[14] Unplug or cover up any sources of light and keep a small flashlight on your nightstand for midnight bathroom trips.

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