Does it seem lately like it’s harder to get those coveted eight hours of sleep? Work demands, household maintenance, bills, kids if you have them…they all keep you from the covers every night. But sleep is one of the most important assets you have—sleep deprivation can affect attention span, memory, concentration, and coordination, and it can even lead to poor health if not treated.
Your bedroom should be a retreat—an oasis! A restful night’s sleep should be a reprieve from your frequently stressful days. Luckily, there are a few simple things you can do to address your sleep issues and create the sleep environment of your dreams.
Darken Your Windows
Is the sun waking you before your alarm? Do your kids beat the roosters at waking you? Sunlight is great for you in moderation, but optic exposure to it stops melatonin production in your body and causes you to wake. Sun can be a rude interrupter, especially during the summer months when it rises early. If your blinds are letting too much sunlight in your room, try adding blackout curtains to your windows—consider them your sunlight bodyguards.
Upgrade Your Bed
Are you waking up feeling rested or feeling sore? Definitely the center of your oasis, your bed should deliver eight to ten hours of restful, comfortable sleep every night. Many people are unaware that mattresses degrade over the years, and experts suggest you replace them every eight or so years, although there is a lot of debate about this and it differs depending on the type of mattress you own. Needless to say, if your mattress has large dents or lumps, or if you wake up in more discomfort than when you went to bed, it is time to consider replacing it. “We recommend that you replace your mattress every eight to ten years, but if it’s not in the budget, a mattress topper can significantly extend the life of your mattress and is much more affordable,” suggests health and wellness consultant Sarah Brown with SleepTrain.
Please Your Ears
As I’m sure you’re aware (that night your neighbor’s dog woke you at 3 a.m. still stings), your ears don’t stop hearing just because you’ve gone to sleep. Back in the 1990s, white noise became popular and sound machines flooded the market. Although science has not proven that white noise actually enhances sleep, it does help drown out disturbing sounds.
Science has made a startling discovery about a different color of noise, though: pink noise. A recent study by Northwestern University proves that listening to pink noise while you sleep actually improves memory the next day. Subjects in the study had three times better recall after listening to pink noise the night before, versus those who did not. You can purchase tracks of pink noise online through applications like iTunes.
Many new homeowners find that installing a sound system in their bedroom (and sometimes their whole house) is an enjoyable way to pipe in music while you sleep. At the very least, wireless speakers are available at a fraction of the cost and can provide hundreds of hours of enjoyable music.
Get the Oxygen You Need
Better oxygen supply equals better sleep. Oxygen saturation in the body may decrease while you sleep, reducing the available oxygen supply that’s crucial for good brain function. Most people know that plants produce oxygen, but they can also be natural filters too. If you get a plant for your room, consider the spider plant, Boston fern, or a small palm tree—all of these are considered natural air purifiers.
If the air you are breathing is full of allergens, your allergies may also be keeping you awake. In this case, a plant may not cut it—you might want to purchase a bedside air filter.
Turn Off Your Devices
Ah, the digital age. More and more of us are saying goodnight with our cellphones in hand, checking email, texting friends, and sharing memes on social media right up to the time we close our eyes. Research has shown, though, that the blue light emanating from screens negatively impacts circadian rhythms and reduces production of melatonin—that key hormone that helps regulate sleep/wake cycles. In order to avoid this, try turning off devices at least one hour before you try to sleep. If this proves impossible, there are many kinds of blue-light-blocking glasses on the market—even for kids.
One could argue that the bedroom is the most important room in the house. Sleep is one of the most important things we do every day as it affects every aspect of our lives. Sometimes, though, sleep can be elusive—but don’t despair. There are many changes that can be made to improve your sleep environment and get you the sleep you need. The rest is up to you.