I don’t know about you, but I know way too many people (myself included) who are frequently sleep-deprived. When it comes to health, prevention is key and I always notice a difference in my health when I get better quality sleep.
Over the past several months I’ve done a lot of research and experimentation on myself with getting better quality sleep and I decided it was time to share my findings with you. So, welcome to my series on getting better sleep – both in terms of quantity and quality!
There is a lot of advice out there about how to get better sleep, but I’m always surprised at how little environment comes up in the conversation. Our environment plays a huge role in getting better quality sleep and it is hard to fall asleep in a space that feels chaotic and cluttered. So, the first part of this series is going to help you make your bedroom somewhere where you want to be and guide you in creating a space that you find peaceful and relaxing. Let’s get to it!
1. Clear out the clutter.
Remove everything from the bedroom that doesn’t absolutely need to be there.
Look around the room and focus on how to minimize visual distractions. That means getting rid of all those extra books, colorful knickknacks, and there had better not be any piles of dirty dishes. I’ve found that a simple 10-minute cleanup routine before bed usually does the trick for keeping the space clean and maintained.
2. Clean up.
Most people are at least mildly allergic to dust, mold, and dander so keeping your bedroom clean will help keep your sinuses clear and result in better quality sleep.
Make sure to clean your sheets, blankets, and pillow cases weekly, along with regular dusting, sweeping, and moping. If you have curtains or other fabrics in the room, be sure to clean these periodically as well. And, if you sleep with a humidifier, be sure to do a weekly cleaning and change the filter at least once a season.
3. Get some fresh air.
Open your bedroom windows at least every few days (and preferably once a day) to get some fresh air in. This is especially important in the colder part of the year when windows may stay shut for months at a time.
4. Evaluate your mattress, pillows, sheets, and blankets.
Is your mattress comfortable or is it lumpy and in need of retirement?
Does your pillow correctly support your neck or do you wake up with soreness?
Are your sheets and blankets cozy and keep you the right temperature for that season?
If not, consider investing in some new sleep equipment. Many people might frown at the cost of buying a quality mattress or new pillows, but if it is disturbing the quality of your sleep, the cost will be worth it in the long run.
Since I have chronic neck pain due to a shoulder injury, there was a period of about six months where I couldn’t sleep through the night because it was absolutely impossible to get comfortable. I was incredibly frustrated that I would go to bed at a reasonable hour, but would wake up throughout the night due to shooting pain in my neck. I finally consulted my chiropractor about pillows and was surprised to find out that I was using the wrong kind of pillow. I had always used one of those memory foam concave pillows because I thought that was what I was “supposed” to use, but it turns out that for a side sleeper like me this was offering zero support and was further aggravating my neck. Not good.
The lesson here is that sometimes a simple change in gear can make a huge difference. My chiropractor advised me to get a buckwheat pillow because they are easier to mold to the neck which offers more support, especially if you have chronic pain. I’ve had my buckwheat/millet pillow for about a year now (I use this one) and couldn’t live without it. So, if you’re struggling with chronic pain or poor sleep in general, I highly recommend talking with a professional, making sure you’re using the right pillow, and investing in better sleep gear if you need it!
5. Minimize or ban electronics in the bedroom.
Did you know that computer monitors, DVD players, cell phones, alarm clocks, and other electronics cast light that can interfere with your sleep? It’s true and I noticed a huge difference when I eliminated these lights from my bedroom.
My advice is to turn off the lights and look for electronic sources of light. Then you can either remove the items from the bedroom or cover lights with tape.
One of the challenges with this is that alarm clocks often cast a bright light that impairs sleep. A few years ago I swapped out my annoying electronic alarm clock for a “rise and shine” light alarm clock (I have this one) and I highly recommend making this switch in your home if possible. One of the cool features is that you can also dim the light and make the face completely dark at night. If you can’t adjust the brightness on your current alarm clock alarm and you can’t swap it out for a better model, you can also try turning it away from the bed to at least diminish the light.
In addition to removing lights from the bedroom, it’s also important to turn off electronics at least a couple of hours before bedtime. However, I also recognize that this may not always be realistic, so if you can’t eliminate computer or iPhone use for at least a couple of hours before bed, try installing an app like f.lux on your computer and/or using orange glasses to reduce the effects of blue light.
6. Find the right temperature.
My last tip here is to a little counterintuitive and that is to turn down the thermostat. Most people sleep better when the room is a bit cooler (around 65 degrees F) so try adjusting the thermostat and see what temperature is most conducive to sleep for your body.
And now I’d love to hear from you! How are you going to put these tips into action to get better quality sleep? And, what other advice do you have for creating a calmer environment and setting the stage for better sleep?