Bedroom Basics: Fine-tune Your Room for Better Rest

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),  adults need 7 or more hours of sleep per night for the best health and wellbeing. More than a third of us, however, are not getting enough and our bedrooms could be partly to blame.

Take a look around your room. Is it a soothing place? Or is it messy, uncomfortable and sabotaging your rest? Use the tips below to find out and to make sleep-benefiting improvements.

Turn Your Room into a Better Sleep Zone

  • Beds and bedding. Keep your sheets clean. The National Sleep Foundation recommends washing your sheets once per week. Choose linens in colors that you find relaxing. Replace pillows every 2 years and mattresses every 7-9 years (or sooner if you’re waking up achy and stiff or if items are feeling lumpy or saggy.) Make sure that comforters and blankets aren’t making you too hot or too cold. If you and your partner have different preferences, consider different blankets for each side of the bed. Oh, and make your bed every day. Your mother was right about that. Research shows that people who make their beds in the morning are 19% more likely to sleep well at night.
  • Nightstand. What’s on your bedside table? Consider adding a journal so you can write down the things that are worrying you and set them aside for the night. Stash smart-phones, tablets, and other electronics away from your bed and out of sight. The blue light from such devices can disrupt your body’s ability to wind-down for sleep and, of course, dinging and pinging can wake you up.
  • General room environment. Clear clutter and choose décor that feels calming. Avoid doing anything in your bedroom besides sleeping (and sex) and certainly choose another location for stressful activities such as working or paying bills. If you must have your desk in your bedroom, arrange furniture so you can’t see work surfaces while you are in bed (consider room screens or curtains to create separate spaces for work and sleep.) The National Sleep Foundation also recommends certain scents for improved sleep including jasmine, lavender, valerian, and vanilla. You can incorporate these into your bedroom routine with lotions, oils, and soaps.
  • Temperature. As mentioned above, you don’t want your blankets to be making you too hot or too cold. Similarly your room temperature can affect your sleep. Try to keep you room at about 65ºF. Open and shut windows appropriately, use fans, or adjust your thermostat to keep your room cool at night.
  • Windows and lights. We sleep best in a dark room. Use room darkening curtains or blinds to block out light. Minimize other lights in your room such as those from alarm clocks, cable boxes and other devices. Choose dim, subdued lighting for an atmosphere of calm (dimmer switches, lamp shades, and lower-wattage bulbs can help in this regard.)
  • Sounds. Are there noises outside or inside your home that could be disturbing your sleep? Fans, small fountains, or other forms of “white noise” can help to block out audio distractions. In my house, our pets can make a racket at night — collars jingle, dogs grunt and snore and the cat seems do sprints as soon as the clock strikes midnight — so I use a white noise app on my phone (which I keep in my nightstand drawer) to drown out the ruckus.

Of course for severe or chronic insomnia and other more serious sleep disorders, improving the bedroom environment is just part of effective treatment and likely won’t solve all your sleep problems.

Talk to your doctor about any sleep disturbances you may be experiencing, other physical or mental health concerns affecting you, and about the highly recommended insomnia treatment called cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-i). Circady’s one-week sleep diary app can make this discussion more productive because it allows you to easily collect and record accurate information about your sleep — information your doctor will need to help create a treatment plan.

That’s all for now. I need to go make my bed. Please use the comment fields below to share ways you’ve improved your sleep environment. I can’t wait to hear your ideas.