Action: Optimize Your Sleep Surroundings

Your surroundings when you are sleeping can play a big role in the amount and quality of sleep that you get.  There are several key areas to pay attention to when creating a conducive sleep environment.  First of all, your bedroom should be used for only two things: sleep and sex.  It should not be an office, a TV room or a craft room.

Relaxing area

Turn your bedroom into a relaxing sleep area that is quiet and free of clutter.

The sight of clothes strewn all over the floor or furniture, boxes or books toppling over, and tangled cords can make you feel stressed and interfere with your ability to relax.  Also, a messy room can also be dangerous if you have to get up at night to use the bathroom.

Light

Keep the bedroom as dark as possible, to tell the body’s light-sensitive clock that it’s time to sleep.

Melatonin is a hormone produced by your brain that signals to your body it is time for sleep. Making your room as dark as possible will maximize your melatonin production.

Meanwhile, light — particularly blue light, which most electronics produce — inhibits melatonin production and makes it harder to fall and stay asleep. (Sunsets produce red light.)

Here are some suggestions for making your bedroom darker:

  • Dim lights at night. Install low-wattage bulbs in your bedroom, and keep things as dim as possible in the hour before your planned bedtime.
  • Cover your windows well, especially if you have windows facing East.
  • Use a motion-sensitive or dim night light if you need something to illuminate your midnight path to the bathroom.
  • Put your mobile phone in another room or set it face down.
  • Cover or dim the alarm clock, or look for one that illuminates only when touched.
  • If you have to use a computer late at night, download the software f.lux, which changes the brightness and tone of your screen in time with sunset and sunrise, reducing evening blue light.

Temperature

Set your room to an appropriate temperature.  Most people sleep better when it’s cool (between 66-72); others sleep better at a neutral temperature.  Find what works best for you and do your best to regulate your bedroom to that temperature each night.

Noise

Keep the bedroom extremely quiet or create some white noise.  If you live in an urban environment and you tend to pop awake at the slightest sound, using some nature sounds on your mobile phone, or even just turning on a fan (or an old radio to static) can be enough to drown out other noises and lull you to sleep.  A HEPA filter can also work well for this purpose, serving double duty by keeping your air cleaner as well.

While total sleep time is important, uninterrupted sleep time is even better.

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