Following nature's blueprint for the perfect abode
Introduction: The Importance of Sleep
Most people know that sleep is a vital time for our body and mind to rejuvenate, heal, grow, and consolidate memories. Yet most people struggle to get quality sleep on a consistent basis.
This is usually because they have no idea that the room they're sleeping in is so unnatural that the body struggles to feel comfortable enough to fall and stay asleep.
As Dr. Neil Stanley puts it in How to Sleep Well, "We all spend a third of our lives asleep. Invest time and money into making that third of your life the best it can be."
In this article, we will explore how you can optimise your sleep environment for better sleep and, by following nature's blueprint, you can create a sleep haven that promotes quality sleep and leaves you feeling refreshed and energised every morning.
Cool And Calm: Lower Temperature
Have you ever noticed how you tend to sleep better in a cool environment?
That's because our body temperature naturally drops when we sleep, and a cool environment helps facilitate that process.
According to a study by the National Sleep Foundation, the ideal temperature for sleep is between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit (15.5 to 19.5 degrees Celsius).
You can easily lower the temperature in your bedroom by:
Opening a window an hour or so before bed
Using a fan or air-conditioning
Turning down the thermostat
Investing in cooling pillows and sheets (wick away moisture to keep you cool)
The author of "Why We Sleep", Matthew Walker, explains, "The temperature of your bedroom also matters. Cooler environments, somewhere around 18.3°C (65°F), appear to be most conducive to sleep."
Pitch Black: Darkness Is Our Friend
Our bodies associate darkness with sleep.
Before the rise of technology and modern homes, humans were sleeping in the pitch black every night without fail. Without artificial lights from devices or bulbs illuminating the house, they were enjoying the benefits of healthy melatonin release in the evening, and falling asleep fast would have been no real problem for them.
This is because we are wired to trigger the release of melatonin when it is dark, a hormone that regulates our sleep-wake cycle. Exposure to light, on the other hand, suppresses melatonin, disrupts our sleep, and reduces the quality of our restful slumber.
To create your own pitch-black sleep environment, you can:
Use blackout curtains
Cover any electronic devices or chargers that emit light
Wear an eye mask
Turn off all lights in the house (if possible)
Avoid using nightlights
Silence Please: Cut Out Noise
Noise is the antagonist of deep, quality sleep.
Usually, if we hear a loud noise our body responds by increasing our heart rate, blood pressure, and alertness. So, although it might not always be a loud scream or siren you hear at night, even the soft chatter of the city or the relentless traffic outside of your house can not only make it difficult falling asleep, but also increases the chance of you keep waking up.
In a study published in Sleep Medicine, participants who were exposed to noise during sleep experienced increased brain activity, a sign of fragmented sleep.
To cut out noise in your bedroom, you can use earplugs, a white noise machine, or soundproof your room.
If it is coming from within your own living space, simply talking to the people you share your room or house with and addressing the issues - such as a roommate having the tv too loud -allows the behaviour or habit to be changed.
James Maas, author of "Power Sleep," emphasises the importance of a quiet sleep environment, "A noise-free sleep environment is essential. If you live in a noisy area, consider investing in earplugs or a white noise machine."
Only Sleep: Nothing Else
"Do not use your bed for anything other than sleep and sex," says sleep expert Neil Stanley.
It's important to associate your bedroom with sleep and relaxation only.
If you use your bedroom for work, watching TV, or any other activities, it can interfere with your sleep, as your brain will associate your bedroom with those activities. What's worse, these activities we typically bring into the bedroom environment are stimulating and increase our wakefulness.
To create a sleep-friendly environment, reserve your bedroom for sleep and relaxation only. Avoid using electronics, such as laptops and TVs, in your bedroom. Instead, use your bedroom for activities that promote relaxation, such as reading a book or taking a bath.
Although it might not be easy at first, finding different places to complete your work or other leisurely activities will be well worth it when you get into bed at night and nod off without any resistance.
Check out 'It all starts with Sleep' by ESLongevity for an easy, straightforward approach to mastering your sleep in the modern world.
The best sleeping position is essentially when you lie on your side and bring your knees up to your chest, commonly known as the foetal position.
People who sleep in this way, particularly when lying on the side of their weaker arm, are reaping a whole host of benefits that are not given when you lie on your back or front.
Approximately 1 in every 15 Americans has a severe case of sleep apnea, and the percentage in the UK is even higher. Luckily, sleeping in the Foetal position relieves sleep apnea symptoms and helps to reduce snoring.
It also alleviates lower back pain by keeping the spine neutral and ensuring nothing is stretched or tightened throughout the course of the night.
Another interesting adaptation of this position is that we tend to fall asleep much faster. This is because the brain tells the body that it's safe as the strong arm is placed across the organs and we're in the best position to defend ourselves against any potential predators creeping up on us in the night. We're still primal beings after all.
You can still experiment with different sleeping positions to find the one that works best for you. But for most, this is the key to fall asleep quickly and should be put on your list of healthy sleep habits.
A great sleep book that provides practical tools for sleep, including positions and mattress choice, is Nick Littlehales' book "Sleep".
Clean Sheet For A Good Night's Sleep
The cleanliness of your bedding can also affect the quality of your sleep.
Dirty sheets can harbour dust mites, bacteria, and allergens that can cause irritation and disrupt your sleep.
To ensure a clean sleep environment, wash your bedding regularly and use hypoallergenic materials. Not only do clean sheets promote good sleep hygiene, but they've also been shown to increase comfort and relaxation; both key components of feeling sleepy.
Dr. Chris Idzikowski, author of "Sound Asleep," advises, "Wash your sheets weekly in hot water to remove dust mites and other allergens. Choose sheets made of natural materials, such as cotton, bamboo, or silk."
7 Bonus Tips To Perfect Your Sleep Haven
Taken from my favourite sleep book "It All Starts With Sleep", here are 7 unconventional tools to fall asleep faster every night and stay asleep until the morning comes.
The smell of lavender has been shown to have a calming effect and can promote relaxation and better sleep.
Incorporate plants in your bedroom to improve air quality and promote relaxation. Plants like Jasmine, Peace Lily, Aloe, and snake plants are known for their air-purifying and calming properties.
Sleep with a weighted blanket to promote relaxation and reduce stress and anxiety. The added pressure can mimic the feeling of a hug, which can promote the release of oxytocin, a hormone that can reduce stress and anxiety.
Consider using a humidifier to add moisture to the air and prevent dryness in your sleep environment. This can promote better breathing and reduce snoring.
Incorporate feng shui principles in your bedroom to promote relaxation and better sleep. Position your bed in a way that allows you to see the door and avoid clutter in your sleep environment.
According to ancient traditions like Vastu Shastra, sleeping with your head pointing to the south can lower blood pressure and improve sleep quality.
Use aromatherapy to promote relaxation and better sleep. Essential oils like lavender, chamomile, and cedarwood are known for their calming and sleep-promoting properties.
Conclusion: Look Forward To Sleep
Instead of "I will sleep when I'm dead", change your mindset to "rest now, live fully tomorrow".
To recap, creating a sleep-friendly environment can make a significant difference in the quality of your sleep and might be just the thing contributing to your insomnia and sleep problems. By following nature's blueprint and implementing the tools we discussed, you can create a sleep haven that promotes relaxation and quality sleep.
As Matthew Walker states in "Why We Sleep," "Sleep is the single most effective thing we can do to reset our brain and body health each day." So, it's worth investing in to create an optimal sleep environment and to reap the benefits of quality sleep.
Remember, everyone's sleep needs are different, so it's important to find what works best for you. By experimenting with the tools and tips we discussed, you can create a personalised sleep haven that will leave you looking forward to bedtime every night.
What is a poor sleep environment?
A poor sleep environment can include factors like excess noise or light, uncomfortable bedding or mattress, poor air quality, uncomfortable temperature, and clutter or disorganization in your bedroom.
A poor sleep environment can negatively impact the quality and quantity of your sleep, leading to daytime fatigue, impaired concentration, and increased risk for health problems like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
Why do we need a good sleep environment?
A sleep-friendly environment promotes relaxation and reduces stress levels, helps improve the quality of your sleep, regulates your body's circadian rhythm, and enhances your mood and cognitive function.
How do I turn my bedroom into a sleep sanctuary?
Achieving an optimal sleep environment includes reducing noise and light, keeping a comfortable temperature, using comfortable bedding and pillows, avoiding using screens before bed, and keeping the bedroom clean and clutter-free. Incorporating relaxing scents, such as lavender, can also promote relaxation and help you fall asleep faster.
By creating a sleep-friendly environment, you can improve the quality of your sleep and overall health and well-being.
What environmental factors affect sleep?
These include noise, light, temperature, air quality, and comfort of bedding and pillows. Excessive noise or light in the bedroom can disrupt sleep, while uncomfortable temperatures or poor air quality can also negatively impact sleep. Uncomfortable or unsupportive bedding and pillows can lead to discomfort, causing you to wake up frequently during the night. To improve sleep quality, it's important to create a sleep-friendly environment that addresses these environmental factors and promotes relaxation and comfort.
What is the optimal temperature to sleep at Celsius?
The optimal temperature for sleep is between 16 and 20 degrees Celsius. This temperature range is ideal for promoting quality sleep and can help regulate your body's internal temperature. Keeping your bedroom cool and comfortable can also help reduce the risk of night sweats and hot flashes, which can disrupt sleep.
How to keep room cooler?
To achieve a cool temperature in your bedroom, open a window at least an hour before bed, use a fan or air-conditioning, use breathable bedding, wear lightweight breathable sleepwear, and lower heating/thermostat in the home.
Why is sleep important?
Sleep is important for overall health and well-being as it helps the body to restore, repair, and recharge. Adequate sleep plays a vital role in physical and mental restoration, regulating mood, and improving cognitive functions such as memory and concentration.
A lack of sleep can lead to various health problems and negatively impact daily life. It is recommended to get 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night to maintain good health.
Insomnia symptoms include:
Difficulty falling or staying asleep
Waking up frequently during the night
Waking up too early
Feeling tired upon waking
Low daytime energy
Having trouble concentrating or feeling irritable during the day
These symptoms can persist for a short period (known as short-term insomnia) or be a chronic issue, affecting daily life and overall well-being. If you're experiencing symptoms of this, whether you feel it is long or short-term insomnia, it can be useful to speak to a healthcare provider to find an underlying health condition and the right actions to take.
Insomnia can be caused by stress, anxiety, depression, medical conditions, medications, substance use, and irregular sleep patterns.
Poor hygiene around sleep, such as exposure to screens before bedtime, can also contribute to insomnia. A change in environment or routine, such as travel, shift work, or jet lag can also trigger insomnia.
Identifying and addressing the underlying cause of insomnia can help manage symptoms and improve sleep quality.
What is sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterised by temporary pauses in breathing or shallow breathing during the night. These pauses can last from a few seconds to a minute and occur repeatedly throughout the night.
Sleep apnea symptoms?
Common symptoms include loud snoring, choking or gasping during sleep, fatigue and excessive daytime sleepiness, and irritability.
Sleep apnea can not only affect sleep, but can also lead to serious health problems - such as diabetes and heart disease - if left untreated, so it's important to seek medical evaluation and treatment.
Fall asleep lie awake?
If you're lying awake at night, there are a few things you can do to help you fall asleep:
Try relaxation techniques like deep breathing or meditation
Read a book or listen to soothing music
Write down your thoughts
Try some yoga or stretching to calm the mind
Avoid screens for at least an hour before bed
How many hours of sleep do adults need?
Most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per night to function at their best. However, individual needs vary and some people may require more or less to feel rested. To determine your optimal amount of rest, pay attention to how you feel after different amounts of sleep and make adjustments accordingly. Quality of sleep is also important, so aim for consistent bedtimes and wake-up times, and create a sleep-conducive environment.
How many hours of sleep do I need?
The amount of sleep an individual needs varies, but most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep each night to function at their best. It's important to listen to your body and pay attention to how you feel after to determine the right amount for you.
Good sleeping hygiene tips?
Good hygiene for sleeping includes creating a relaxing bedtime routine, keeping a consistent sleeping schedule, creating a sleep-conducive environment, avoiding screens before bedtime, limiting caffeine and alcohol intake, and engaging in physical activity during the day.
These can help you get a better night's rest and improve the overall quality of your rest.
Blue light effects on sleep?
Exposure to blue light in the evening can suppress melatonin production - a hormone that promotes tiredness and regulates our sleep pattern - which makes it harder to nod off and reduces the quality of our rest.
To minimize the effects of blue light, it's important to limit screen time before bedtime and use blue light-blocking technologies.