Though science still attempts to understand the exact workings of sleep, at this point, most of us know how vital it is for our healthy functioning and even survival. Unfortunately, sometimes sleep is harder to come by than you would wish for, and before you finally drift off, you spend a considerable amount of your rest time tossing and turning.
Quite a lot of factors, such as stress, caffeine, or diet, might negatively affect the quality of your rest, but you also need to consider your sleep environment. Right now, you might see your bedroom just as a place where you crash after a long day or as a storage for your personal belongings, but the truth is its condition may determine whether you’ll wake up fresh and rested.
After all, how many times have you thrown your duvet aside in annoyance when it got too hot? Or repeatedly fluffed your pillow until it had the perfect shape for your head? With factors such as your bed, temperature, clutter, or even the colors of the walls affecting your sleep, it’s not a matter that you can ignore. Here is what you need to know.
Mattress and Bedding
Though buying a mattress can quickly become a costly endeavor, as a centerpiece of your sleeping environment, it is one of the most valuable investments you could ever make. If you have ever slept on an old mattress, you know how uncomfortable it might be, resulting in constant back and neck aches that hinder your daily activities.
When choosing a mattress for yourself, you need to think about your preferences regarding the size and firmness. What’s more, you should also make sure that it offers appropriate support and pressure point relief for your body weight and sleeping position. Depending on those, you could choose between different mattress builds, including memory foam, latex, or airbed.
You should also consider your preferences when choosing the bedding, especially the pillow, since it supports your neck. To find the best pillow, you need to bear in mind its thickness, firmness, and durability. For sheets, think about materials and the current season – do you prefer the smooth touch of silk or the coziness of polar fleece?
Living in a city such as Los Angeles or Phoenix, you have certainly experienced difficulty falling asleep due to the unbearably hot temperatures. Or if you live in a colder area, maybe it was a broken thermostat that woke you up during the winter.
Either way, temperature plays a significant role in your sleep environment and might be even more important than light and time. It’s because in the initial stages of your sleep, your body will experience a drop in core temperature as it makes you feel sleepy. That’s why you cannot fall asleep when it’s hot – the heat keeps your body warm, preventing the lowering of your core temperature and keeping you alert.
A too cold temperature is not good either. Being uncomfortable – whether it’s feeling too hot or cold – might disrupt your REM stage, which is crucial for learning and making or retaining memories.
Most experts agree that the optimal temperature for sleep is 65 degrees Fahrenheit (18.3 degrees Celsius), though it may vary depending on your personal preferences. That’s why a range of 60 to 71.6 degrees Fahrenheit (15.6 to 22.0 degrees Celsius) might be more suitable to find what works best for you. Alternatively, you can alter the temperature by adding a blanket to your bedding or not using a duvet at all.
Your sleep is governed by the circadian rhythm, which is heavily influenced by natural light and darkness. At night, the darkness stimulates the activity of the pineal gland to start producing melatonin, which is a hormone that triggers feelings of sleepiness and relaxation. That’s why you need to ensure that your room is dark and there are no sources of light that could disturb you.
Moreover, studies have shown that exposure to artificial light before bed might disrupt circadian rhythms and prolong the time needed to fall asleep. To avoid that, you should turn off all the lamps when it’s bedtime. You also need to ensure that there is no light coming from outside, be it street lights or headlights from passing-by cars. Blackout curtains will be a great solution to that problem.
If you need lighting for safety reasons, for example, when going to the toilet at night, or you want to read a book right before bedtime, opt for dimmer lights that won’t be as harsh on your eyes.
For the majority of people, the quieter their bedroom, the better their sleep. This comes as no surprise, and you probably can imagine how difficult it can be to drift off when your neighbor next door blasts loud music after midnight. Furthermore, even environmental noise that doesn’t necessarily wake you up may reduce the level of your sleep quality because it messes with your stages of sleep and, subsequently, your health.
To ensure that nothing will wake you up, you could start by putting your phone on silent mode so you won’t hear any ill-timed notifications from social media. You might also think about soundproofing your bedroom if you live in a boisterous area. Some people also look for ways to mask the noise with white-noise machines, ASMR, or ambient music.
Cleanliness and Hygiene
To create a healthy environment that promotes quality sleep, you need to maintain cleanliness in your bedroom. A cluttered and disorganized room might be a source of stress since it can remind you about unfinished tasks and the responsibilities that are to come. Additionally, clutter contributes to the accumulation of dust mites, which can affect your rest if you’re allergic to them.
While you’re already at it, you should also keep your sheets fresh and wash them regularly – ideally every two weeks or even more frequently if you sweat profusely during the night or sleep with your pet. For your mattress, you should vacuum it at least once a month and deep clean it every 6 months.
This may come as a surprise for some people, but the design of your bedroom may also influence your sleep. Though the design is a broad subject, right now, we’re strictly talking about the colors used for the walls.
Usually, people focus on the aesthetic value when picking the color scheme, but as color psychology experts have proven, your choice might have an impact on your mood. You’ve probably noticed that some colors seem to put you at ease, whereas others make you feel energized and more awake.
For most people, the best color scheme would include softer, warmer shades and colors such as blue, green, muted yellow, orange, and soft pink. On the other hand, you should avoid bright purple, brown, red, and dark gray.
The sleep-friendly environment you create for yourself might be the secret to rested mornings and a good mood throughout the day. To achieve that, you need to pay attention to all the factors mentioned above that affect your sleep, and you might even have to make some financial sacrifices.
Creating the perfect sleep environment doesn’t happen overnight, and it certainly takes effort to get it just right. Even when you manage to find the optimal temperature and switch off all the lights, you still need to maintain your bedroom to ensure that it stays healthy and safe.
Nonetheless, considering the importance of sleep for your physical and mental health, you should make sure that you have a comfortable place to rest.
Lauren is an occasional contributor who helps Ted and Stacey at the peak busy times. She's a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, but also studied Marketing and Classical Literature.
Updated at April 13, 2022