Sleeping is a natural process that happens to each and every one of us at night time. We all know that sleep is important for us to properly function, but scientists are still not 100% certain why.
Only 1 in 10 of us actually sleep all through the night without waking up, and this is down to a variety of factors, some of which are out of our control. However, there are actions that we can take to improve our quality of sleep, starting with the bedroom. If you’re tossing and turning at night, follow these tips and see if you can change your sleeping pattern for the better.
One of the most important factors for sleeping well is your mattress. Whether you prefer that ‘sinking’ feeling or a firm sleeping surface, a good-quality mattress is worth investing in. Whatever your preference, a quality mattress will provide the correct support for your back, which is essential for your health as well as your sleep.
A high-quality mattress can last up to 10 years, but none can last forever, and after this time you should always replace your mattress.
Invest in really good, supportive pillows. Decide what you firmness you prefer, soft? hard? foam? Make sure you’re happy with what you have, and be sure to change them regularly as after time pillows can lose their shape and become embedded with dust.
Ensure that your bedroom is clean and free of dust. Dust can trigger allergies and make for a bad night’s sleep. Dust mites also have a similar effect, especially for people who suffer with asthma. Be sure to vacuum the room and the mattress periodically to keep it dust-free.
Make sure you’re as comfortable as possible. If you do wear pyjamas, opt for soft and light fabrics such as cottons and silks, as these are gentle against the skin and will keep you cool. If you’re not a fan of pyjamas, studies have shown that sleeping naked leads to a better night’s sleep, as it’s easier for your body to control its temperature.
We sleep better in the dark, because light can inhibit the secretion of melatonin – the hormone that regulates our sleep. We are capable of detecting even the dimmest of lights – even through closed eyelids! Blackout blinds help to control unwanted light exposure, from streets lamps and car headlights to the moon itself.
This links to the point above, because many electronic devices such as TVs have ‘standby’ lights which can lead to poor sleep. Electronic devices can also produce humming noises, which although you think you ignore, actually keep you up at night.
There has also been some debate about sleeping next to your mobile phone. Although it has not been proved that their signals cause us any harm, it is better to turn them completely off to avoid being woken up in the night. It is also a good idea to switch off to prevent any distractions before you go to sleep, allowing you to properly relax.
We’re not sure how much evidence there is for this, but it is the belief of some mythologies that positioning your bed so that your head is pointing to either the North or South pole increases your quality of sleep. It is believed that aligning yourself with the Earth’s magnetic fields can improve your sleep, and also help with dreams.
Your bedroom should be a place of calm, and many of us struggle to relax in an untidy room. Too much clutter can cause anxiety and stress, so make sure you have good bedroom storage to stay organised.
Temperature can make a noticeable difference when it comes to sleep. According to Dr Christopher Winter, sleeping in a hot environment has been shown to increase wakefulness and decrease slow wave sleep. Most studies agree that the room temperature should be between 18 – 22 degrees Celsius, although this can vary from person to person.
You don’t want something too heavy, or irritating for your skin. Cotton has been a long-time favourite for bed sheets, due to its durability, comfort and hygienic properties.
Silks are a good option, especially if you suffer from dry/sensitive skin (Tip: Silk pillow cases are brilliant for spot-prone skin). Silk has an amazing ability to keep us cool when it’s warm and warm when it’s cool – which is why it makes a good bedding choice. And no, you won’t slip out of your silk bed sheets, that’s a myth.
Hypoallergenic bed materials are increasingly popular, not just among allergy sufferers, as they keep dust mites at bay.
Noises at levels as low as 40 decibels or as high as 70 decibels can keep us awake. Remember to turn off all electrical devices which emit sound, and a thick curtain will help to muffle noise from outside.
It is not always possible to create a noise-free zone, especially if you live in a noisy area. If this is the case, it can help to have a consistent background noise playing, which can help you to ignore noise altogether. There are plenty of smartphone apps for this. An alternative would be to sleep with earplugs.
Try to stick to using your bedroom for sleep and amorous activities only. Avoid using your bedroom as an extra office space or a workout area, otherwise you will not associate the room with resting and sleeping.
Choose a colour palette that creates a calm and restful vibe. Blue is considered a good colour for bedrooms because it slows the heart rate - but it can sometimes make a room feel ‘cold’ or masculine. According to the same study, People with purple walls have been found to sleep the worst.
Sometimes the best colour to use is your favourite colour, but opt for paler, pastel hues to avoid it being too overpowering.
Studies have found that wearing socks to bed helps you to sleep. It can also help to reduce the number of times you wake up in the night. If you don’t believe it – try it yourself!
Smell is often an overlooked factor when it comes to sleep, but there is a reason why there is a market for sleep balms and oils! Aromatherapy is a popular alternative medicinal approach which uses natural oils to aid with sleep. Lavender has been shown to decrease heart rate and blood pressure by making you more relaxed. Jasmine also has similar effects which aid with sleep.
It has even been stated that what you smell may influence your dreams, as odour has a strong effect on emotions.
This one comes from Feng Shui – the Chinese art of interior design and placement – and is known as ‘living chi’ (living energy). Studies indicate that green colours can help to lower blood pressure. Plants also remind us of the energy and strength of nature, representing a calming influence.
Plants with a good scent such as lemon-based herbs and Jasmine also help (as mentioned above) with sleep. However, plants are only good for out mental health as long as they remain healthy themselves. Be sure to take care of any indoor greenery you may have.
If you sleep with a partner, I’m sure at one point or other you’ve experienced what it’s like to have little or no blankets. Sharing one blanket can actually lead to poor-quality sleep – not to mention mini-arguments with your partner! Having separate blankets makes for a more comfortable night’s sleep, as you can create your own ‘zone’ without having to worry about ‘hogging’ the blankets.
If you’re not totally convinced by this, you spread one final blanket over everything.
Yes, you should switch off all lights and electronics before you sleep, but that doesn’t mean you can’t unwind and relax beforehand. Trying to sleep while your mind is still active will not help. Engaging in a relaxing activity such as listening to music or reading will help you to prepare for a good night’s sleep.
Have something else to add to the list? Share it below.