Hack your bedroom environment for top quality sleep

bedroom environmentWhen it comes to finding the perfect bedroom environment, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution; rather, you need to take the time to think about your sleep habits and preferences. For example, do you tend to get too hot during the night, or too cold? Do you like to read before bed? Do you move around in your sleep? What outside factors (noise, light, stress) most prevent you from sleeping?

The general rule is that for the best quality sleep, bedrooms should only be for sleeping, so finding your perfect setup means putting sleep first and foremost by reducing outside distractions. Follow these tips to create a cozy safe haven where you can drift off and catch some much needed Z’s. 

Hit the Lights

Our circadian rhythm, which regulates the sleep-wake cycles in our bodies, is highly influenced by light levels: bright light tells us it is time to wake, and darkness or low light tells us it is time to sleep. That’s why even deep sleepers can be affected by varying light levels, leading to disturbed sleep. 

One of the easiest and best ways to improve your sleep environment is to block out as much light as possible. Blackout blinds or curtains are the best way to do this, though a good-quality eye-mask can also make a difference. If you prefer waking up to some light, consider either an alarm clock with a light function to wake you up gradually, or a timer for your curtains that will open them at a set time, waking you up naturally. 

Put the ‘Bed’ in Bedroom

This might sound like a no-brainer, but your bed makes a big difference to your sleep quality! The mattress is one of the most important aspects of a bed, and you should consider replacing yours if it’s more than 8 years old, if it feels too small for you plus anyone else sharing it (partners, kids, pets, etc.), or if you regularly wake up feeling sore or stiff. If you do share a bed with a partner, you could even consider investing in a mattress with different levels of firmness on each side – they do exist! 

Your bedding is almost as important as the mattress. If you’re prone to getting hot and sweaty at night, opt for natural fibres like linen or cotton, and a high thread count. If you’re cold in bed, brushed cotton or jersey is warmer to the touch. Whatever fabric you choose, make sure to wash your sheets regularly – most experts recommend once a week. This helps to reduce a build-up of dust and allergens, contributing to a less disturbed night. 

Pillows also affect your sleep quality in a big way, and now it is possible to buy pillows that are specifically designed for different sleeping positions, not to mention anti-snoring and anti-allergenic options. It’s worth shopping around to find the best possible fit for you.

Check the Thermostat

When we’re falling asleep, our core body temperature drops slightly to enter the first phase of the sleep cycle. Therefore, it is much more difficult to fall asleep in a warm room. Studies show that between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit is the optimal temperature for sleeping. 

If you’re prone to getting cold at night, it’s better to create a warmer bed with a thick quilt, blanket or comforter, while keeping the room cool. 

Leave Your Devices Outside

Electronics are bad for sleep, period. Whether it’s the temptation to stay up late looking at a screen and confusing your circadian rhythm with blue light, noisy notifications waking you up, or noise and light pollution from devices on standby, it’s best to leave them out of the bedroom. An inexpensive alarm clock can solve the waking up issue, and if you’re keen to track your sleep, opt for a wearable like a Fitbit instead. It will take a bit of getting used to, but it can make a huge difference to your sleep environment. 

Cancel the Noise

Even if you consider yourself a deep sleeper, chances are you are getting disturbed by loud noises, especially in the lighter stages of your sleep cycle. Although you might not notice it for a night or two, disturbed sleep over an extended time period can negatively affect your health, mood, and productivity. 

There are a number of ways to block out excess noise while you’re sleeping, ranging from quick and cheap to major investments:

  • Earplugs

Earplug technology has come on a long way in recent years, and if you’re someone who has never got on with drugstore foam earplugs, it could be worth investigating other options. From moldable silicone versions that form a seal over the ear canal without going inside it, to custom-fit models that can be reused time and time again, there’s something for every kind of ear. 

  • White Noise

White noise is an unobtrusive, steady sound that many people find helps to block out background noise, both from sleep and for work. In fact, a study has confirmed that in hospital patients, white noise helps to encourage unbroken sleep. White noise can be produced electronically, like radio static, or it can come from natural sounds like rain, ocean waves, or wind. There are lots of inexpensive white noise machines on the market, many with sleep timers that turn them off once you have dropped off. Alternatively, you could invest in some sleep-suitable headphones and play white noise directly from your phone (there are a number of playlists on Youtube and Spotify, for example). 

  • Home Improvements

Soft furnishings can help to dampen sound, whether it’s coming from noisy neighbors or the street outside. Thick, lined curtains or specially-designed honeycomb blinds on the windows, thick carpets or rugs on the floors, and even a fabric wall-hanging on an adjoining wall can all help to reduce noise pollution without a major investment of time or money. 

If you are looking to spend more money on a long-term solution, consider installing secondary double glazing or even getting triple-glazed windows. Talk to the supplier about your needs, as different models have more sound-proofing properties. Although this is not a cheap option, it can make a huge difference to your sleep quality. 

It’s All in the Setup

In general, clutter is a big no-no for high quality sleep. As the saying goes, a cluttered desk is the sign of a cluttered mind, and that is not conducive to sleep. Spend a few hours systematically organizing and removing debris from your bedroom: think excess toiletries (these can go in the bathroom), paperwork (file this away), dirty clothes (in the laundry hamper!) old cups, and general junk. The aim should be to have clear surfaces and nothing in your eye-line that makes you worry about how much you have to do the next day. 

If you have a bit more time and space, you could even consider re-ordering your bedroom to ensure that your bed is the focus of the room, and other furniture is limited. For example, if you have a desk for work or study in your bedroom, moving it to a different room could help to reduce stress and distractions. Try to face your bed away from doors and windows to minimize light in your face. Putting it against an interior wall can also help to reduce cold or heat from outside. 1

Get the Right Color Scheme

Of course, your choice of bedroom color scheme comes down to personal preference, as well as any limitations from your landlord if you are renting. However, there are certain factors that it is important to keep in mind if you’re looking to maximize sleep quality. 

If you remember color mixing from elementary school, there are warm colors like reds, yellows and oranges, and then there are cool colors like blues and greens. If you love to feel cozy when falling asleep and you’re prone to getting chilly in bed, opt for warmer tones. If you find yourself overheating and/or getting stressed in bed, consider soothing, cooler shades. 

In fact, a 2013 UK study found that people who slept in a blue room slept longer and deeper overall. Alternatively, if you prefer a more streamlined look, stick to white walls and add color through accents like pillows, blankets, or wall art.  

Breathe In

Humidity is an important factor in air quality, and getting the humidity right in your bedroom can make a huge difference to your sleep. The humidity in your bedroom should be between 30 and 50%, with 45% the ideal. Higher humidity can encourage the growth of harmful mold, mites and bacteria, while lower can cause irritation to eyes, noses and throats – none of which is good for sleep. If the humidity in your bedroom is outside of the healthy range, consider investing in a humidifier or dehumidifier to help you sleep. 

Certain plants can help to improve air quality by acting as natural air filters. Golden pothos, snake plants, spider plants and aloe vera all come recommended by none other than NASA for their air-purifying qualities. The best bit? They’re all low-maintenance plants, making them easy to care for. However, do note that if you suffer from a mold allergy, plants in the bedroom could exacerbate your symptoms. 

While these plants are great, sometimes you need something even more effective. An extensive 5-year Chinese study has shown that pollution has a negative effect on sleep quality, so if you live in a built-up area, or if you suffer from asthma, you might want to invest in an air filter that removes pollution, dust and allergens from the room. It’s worth doing some research before buying, as some have been shown to be far more effective than others.