I recently took a business trip to Chicago and had an experience where I woke up in the middle of the night wondering where I was. Maybe that has happened to you. You enter a state of panic, unable to connect your thoughts, until finally, you remember that you are not in your own bed.
While this example may seem like more of a psychological adjustment than a physical one, there’s a lot to be said about the impact your surroundings can have on your psychological state. Creating a space that enables productive, restful sleep is an easy way to improve your sleep quality so you won’t feel groggy in the morning. In addition to feeling tired, lack of sleep brings a whole host of negative health effects, including a weakened immune system, increased risk of obesity, and in my case (according to my family), an overall crabby personality.
Here are some tips for making your bedroom a better place to both fall asleep and stay asleep:
Unplug and tune out. Screen time too close to your bedtime can prevent you from falling asleep for several reasons. For one, technology affects cognitive stimulation — responding to an email, checking social media or sending a text message increases brain activity, making it more difficult for your mind and body to wind down before bed. Physiologically, reacting with words or actions can cause the body to tense up, resulting in the release of hormones that prevent sleepiness. Plus, the light from your gadgets interferes with quality sleep. As light passes from these devices to your retina, it delays the release of sleep-inducing hormones, namely melatonin. It’s best to avoid all electronics at least 15 to 30 minutes before bedtime, allowing your body to get away from the “gadget glow” and start slowing down.
I know, I know – easier said than done.
Create a pitch black environment. When we moved into our house, we were surprised that there were no windows in the master bedroom. At first it seemed odd, but it makes a big difference when it comes to keeping light out. The fact is light creeping in during the middle of the night and early morning hours can disrupt sleeping patterns.
From an evolutionary standpoint, this makes perfect sense. Before electricity, our internal clocks were set by the sun, the moon and the stars. But the introduction of artificial light and modern technology has allowed for lifestyles changes (not always good ones) that involve staying up later and sleeping past sunrise.
Artificial lighting (and sunlight in the morning) elevates cortisol levels, causing disrupted sleep patterns, and suppresses the release of melatonin, which makes it difficult to fall asleep. Even low levels of light induces frequent micro-arousals during sleep, according to a study by Sleep Medicine.
Be sure to turn off all lights (including the TV) before falling asleep, and consider installing blackout curtains to keep the early morning light from creeping in while you’re catching Zzzz. You will notice a difference.
Keep your feet outside of the blanket. A lot of you may already do this for personal comfort reasons. If you’re tall, you may not have much of a choice. But for those of us who have been keeping our toes undercover, (see what I did there?), we may be disrupting our own sleep.
According to a report from New York Magazine, keeping your feet outside of your blankets could help you sleep better and fall asleep faster. The skin surfaces of our feet help with heat loss, allowing our bodies to cool down to optimum sleeping temperature, triggering us to fall asleep and stay asleep longer.
Consider the thermostat. Keeping your feet outside of the blanket helps release heat from your body when it’s too warm. Equally important is achieving external temperatures conducive to restful sleep — ideally between 65 and 72 degrees, according to sleep experts.
Right before we fall asleep, our body temperature starts to drop, and when we’re sleeping soundly, our bodies are at their coolest. Because of this sleep-temperature connection, cooler temperatures cause sleepiness and help us sleep better.
To take it one step further, you might consider warming your body just before bed, and then switching to a cooler environment, inducing a negative temperature change that will activate your body’s sleep-inducing hormones. For example, stepping out of a warm bath or drinking a warm beverage prompts your body to start the cool down process, which will continue once you’re in bed.
Find the right bedding. Egyptian cotton? 800-thread count? Linen? Down? Which one is best? The right sheets, blankets pillows and mattress may be the most important factors of all when determining how you can achieve a better night’s sleep. While the various options span a number of personal comfort preferences (inclines, firmness, fluffiness, etc.), they also play a role in other factors.
The type of bedding you use affects your body’s temperature throughout the night. Higher thread counts often lead to warmer temperatures. Linen materials are considered best for people who get hot easily. Down comforters retain heat and may be better for those who find themselves shivering at night.
There are a variety of pillows and mattresses that affect temperature as well. For personal comfort, it’s important to identify pillows and mattresses that are ideal for your body type.
Find the right mattress. Just as time takes a toll on us, it also wears on our pillows and mattresses. Not only do they begin to lose their supportive capabilities, but over time dust mites, sweat, dead skin and other allergens collect in our beds, which can contribute to allergies and asthma.
Replacing your pillow every two years and your mattress every eight years helps ensure that both remain supportive and allergen-free.
We are often asked by our guests how to sleep better and while we’ll be the first to tell you that a good mattress is important, we also remind customers that healthy sleep starts with a healthy habitats. The environment you sleep in is just as important as your waking environment, especially if you want to feel better and stay alert throughout the day. Following these tips can help you fall asleep faster, sleep deeper and stay asleep longer. Which one do you believe is most important for a sleep-happy habitat?
About The Author
Craig McAndrews is the former chief strategy officer for Mattress Firm. In his role, he led product development and merchandising strategy, both in-store and online. When he was a regular contributor to The Daily Doze, he shared insights on to how make the mattress buying process a little easier, and what is really important when it comes to selecting your sleep system.
Craig’s career in the bedding industry initially began with Sealy’s Stearns & Foster, where he regularly worked with Mattress Firm, giving him the opportunity to witness the company’s special culture first hand. He soon joined the Mattress Firm team as a franchise owner, and played a part in the company’s expansion into Arizona. Later, Craig served in a variety of roles for Mattress Firm; and his passion for helping customers “Sleep Happy” and commitment to sharing his extensive industry knowledge with his teammates have garnered the respect and admiration of coworkers and peers alike.
Craig graduated from Stephen F. Austin State University with a bachelor’s degree in marketing. He lives in Houston with his wife April and their two sons Ben and Nate.
Best Night’s Sleep: His best nights’ sleep happen at home when he is with his family – and, of course, following a Cowboys win.