A good night’s sleep is incredibly important for our overall health and impacts our wellbeing in numerous ways. If you don’t sleep well, or for long enough, then the symptoms you may experience include but are not limited to: headaches, weakened immune system, susceptibility to illness, irritability, forgetfulness, lack of judgement, poor concentration, poor spatial awareness and reactions (potentially leading to injury), lower sex drive, slow healing of wounds, damaged appearance and more. In other words then sleep affects pretty much *every* aspect of our lives which is why it’s so important to make sure we get as much of it as possible.
Many things you can do to accomplish this involve improving your lifestyle and habits, and developing different psychological techniques that can help. However changing from within isn’t the only way to improve your ability to sleep – you can also change from without by ensuring that the environment you are trying to get to sleep in is as conducive to a good rest as possible. Of course the condition of your room will have a big impact on your ability to sleep soundly and help not just the duration of your sleep but the quality of it too – and there may be a few factors you haven’t considered. Here we will look at some of those…
One of the biggest things that prevents people from sleeping as well as they should is the light that gets into their rooms. While you might still be able to sleep with a low level of light you would be surprised how much still gets through your eyelids and even the thinner parts of your skull. This then acts as a sign to your brain that it’s time to wake up (an external zeitgeber is the official term) causing you to sleep more lightly as a result.
The first way to reduce light is to choose to sleep in a room at the back of your house to stay away from the road and street lights – which will also help with the noise as well. Next up is to ensure that your windows are capable of blocking as much light out as possible. This means first and foremost getting heavy curtains that are thick and opaque, but you may also want to add net curtains underneath or even shutters on the outside.
But a lot of the light that keeps you awake will also come from inside your room in most cases – from TVs, CD players etc. all of which can create a distracting glow. The best way to prevent this issue is simply to remove these items from your room but of course sometimes you will need your alarm clock or your phone on charge nearby. The best solutions then are to a) turn them away from you and b) drape a hanky over them.
This is an issue that for many people receives less attention than it should. We tend here to only really focus on the ‘obvious’ noise – in other words things like people watching TV too loudly nearby – but again lower levels of noise such as traffic and light ‘clunking’ sounds from outside or in the kitchen can also make us sleep less deeply and make our sleep more disturbed meaning we ultimately wake up more groggy and less refreshed.
One thing to do then is to make sure that you choose the room furthest from any traffic to be your bedroom. At the same time it’s also worth investing in the best insulation for your walls and double glazing (both of which also have many other benefits too).
Meanwhile you can also find ways to increase the sound insulation in your room and this will help to absorb sound as well. For instance simply using heavier curtains can help to absorb a lot of sound (as well as blocking out more light), while you can achieve a similar effect by putting more cushions around the wall, or even hanging a rug up on an offending wall. Sound proofing can also be carried out around the house – so if you are being woken up every morning by family members preparing breakfast you can prevent this issue by making changes to your kitchen – such as attaching a thin slice of cork to the inside of cabinet doors to pad the sound of them closing, getting slippers for the chair legs, or investing in a rubber mat for your washing up to go on.
Finally think about all the other smaller sounds created in your room – the whirring of fans for instance or the ticking of clocks. If you have any noisy items where you sleep then try moving them into different rooms so they don’t disturb you.
Another aspect of your bedroom that you might not have considered for ensuring you get the best possible sleep is the quality of the air in the room. Of course if you cannot breathe easily then this is going to affect how well you are able to sleep, and at the very least it will cause you to wake up with a dry throat and blocked nose.
There are many things that contribute to the quality of our air. For instance it is important that your air contain the right amount of moisture. Here too much moisture or too little can make breathing difficult and can leave you feeling short of breath when you’re trying to sleep. If your air is too humid then you will notice that you start to get mould forming and you might notice condensation on the windows. Likewise if your air is too dry you may notice your air being coarse and dry and your skin might dry out. You can improve this imbalance using either a humidifier or a dehumidifier respectively.
Another consideration with your air is how clean it is, and there are all kinds of spores, dust particles, allergens, toxins and other microscopic elements that can make breathing difficult. If you sleep with the window open for instance then this might make you more likely to breathe in allergens from outside or toxins like smoke. As such it is preferable to keep the window closed and to use air conditioning to keep the temperature pleasantly low. Failing this you can use net curtains or other ‘filters’ to remove the larger particles as the air comes in through the window.
Likewise just keeping the property as clean as possible can make a big difference, so if your home needs dusting badly then this is something you should try to do more regularly – otherwise those dust particles will get unsettled and enter the air where they can be breathed in.
If you have any mould in your property then this spreads by releasing mould spores which break away and drift through the atmosphere. Combat this by addressing the mould – use bleach or another product to remove the mould as much as you can from the surfaces, and again focus on combating humidity and other contributors to your mould.
Even smells can affect you in your sleep and just as burning incense might relax you, the pungent odour of old shoes can be off putting and lead to a disturbed sleep. One thing to do then is to make sure that anything particularly foul smelling is removed from your room and to use an air freshener or an odour killer to remove the existing smells.
If your temperature is uncomfortable then this can cause you to sleep less deeply or to wake in the night to re-adjust. Make sure that your room is a good temperature when you drift off, but also make sure that you use lots of layers so that you have the option to add or take off blankets as the night goes on without having to get up. As a very general rule you’re normally less likely to wake up for being too hot than you are to wake up for being too cold so lay those blankets on thick!
The way your room looks and feels can actually have a big impact on your psychology and can make you feel more or less comfortable. Partly this is also a matter of personal preference though – for instance some people enjoy having wide open spaces if they have a tendency toward claustrophobia, while others prefer smaller spaces that they feel are ‘cosy’. Decide what works for you.
Important though is to make sure your room is clean and tidy and that it is well presented. If your room is disorganized with socks strewn everywhere this can make it less pleasant to relax in and the unconscious stress of knowing you should tidy will play on your mind.
Likewise try to decorate your room with colours, items and images that will be relaxing and peaceful. In other words it’s much better to have a picture of a scenic brook babbling through the forest than it is to have a loud and colourful picture of Optimus Prime punching Megatron in the face. Exciting images with garish colours and lots of movement are better saved for other rooms, whereas in your bedroom you should try to create a minimalistic calm.
Finally, try to keep anything that’s associated with work or any kind of stress out of your room. That means no laptops and ideally no mobile phones either. Anything that you associate with being pestered or having to be productive will have unconscious associations that are not conducive to sleep and relaxation.