Sweet Dreams

How To Create A Sleep-Friendly Bedroom

by REX Sleep Disorders Centers // October - November - December 2018

Many of us joke about being sleep-deprived – especially this time of year with the hustle and bustle of the busy holiday season – but the condition puts a major damper on quality of life … not to mention, it can be downright dangerous. Poor sleep can lead to daytime sleepiness, accidents, and difficulty carrying out daily functions. Our cognitive abilities become impaired; our reaction times slow down; and we get grumpy, anxious, and depressed.

Sleep deprivation is also associated with weight gain, increased risk of diabetes, and dementia. So it’s no overstatement to say that sleep is essential to life, says Adnan Pervez, MD, a sleep medicine physician with REX Pulmonary Specialists and the REX Sleep Disorders Center.

“Sleep constitutes one-third of our lives,” Dr. Pervez says. “We need it to restore ourselves so that we can function during the day.” It’s about more than just recharging our batteries and maintaining our energy. Sleeping serves many physiological functions, too. Many of the body’s systems regenerate and recover during sleep. Hormonal changes important for growth and internal balance also occur during sleep.

For these reasons, it’s important to create a sleep-friendly bedroom. Here are some suggestions for creating the perfect sleep environment.

1. Make sure your bedroom is exclusive to sleep (and intimacy). Your bedroom is a sacred space that should be used only for sleeping and intimacy. This helps you condition your brain to know that being in the bedroom means it’s time to get ready to fall asleep. Don’t keep attention-grabbing things in your bedroom – having a tangle of work papers, video games, exercise equipment, phones, and tablets in the bedroom can distract the mind and condition the body to regard it as a place of activity, not rest.

2. Limit noise and distractions outside the room. Rather than thrashing in bed, consider that you have more control over noise than you think. First, politely ask the humans with whom you live to change their behavior. Calmly ask them to turn down the TV, ask them to keep their voices down when talking, and share this article with them to help them understand why sleep is so important. Of course, you can’t control all the noises in your neighborhood, but you can still take action. For instance, some people like to drown out external noise with calming white-noise machines or phone apps. Some people use a fan. There are also earplugs and headphones that are made to be worn while falling asleep to help eliminate sleep-preventing noises.

3. Limit the light. You want to minimize the light to which you’re exposed during the hour or so before you hit the hay, because light is a natural suppressor of melatonin, the body’s hormone that promotes sleep. This mechanism works in your favor in the morning; when you’re exposed to bright light then, it sends a signal to the brain that the day has begun. But light exposure close to bedtime makes it harder to fall asleep because the light tells your body that it’s still daytime. Artificial light sends the same messages to your body as sunlight. A dimmable light switch that you can control from bed is a great way to gradually bring down the light in the bedroom and tell your body that it’s time to wind down during the hour before bedtime.

4. Don’t mindlessly scroll through your phone in bed like a social media zombie. Consider putting your phone across the room on “Do Not Disturb” mode so that only important phone calls get through. Why? There has been a lot of research on the effects of taking smartphones and tablets to bed with you. Portable electronic devices disturb sleep in two major ways. First, they provide an activity – whether it’s reading the news, checking out your Instagram feed, or playing Candy Crush – therefore keeping you engaged with the device rather than relaxing and going to sleep. Second, in physiological terms, most LCD screens emit shortwave blue light directly into your eyes. Blue light tells your body to suppress the release of melatonin that would otherwise be helping you fall asleep. If you like the convenience of an electronic device for reading before you go to sleep, consider using a non-LCD e-reader that doesn’t emit blue light right into your eyeballs.

5. Decorate for relaxation, and kill the clutter. In a sleep-friendly bedroom, you want design elements that are calming, such as light green or blue paint. Rainbow zigzags, faux graffiti, and other brain-stimulating decorations are better suited for other parts of the house. Having a clean bedroom can benefit your respiratory system. Make sure your sleeping environment is dust-free by dusting, sweeping, and vacuuming regularly. This will help you limit the severity of snoring, sleep apnea, and allergies.

6. Cool down temperatures for sleeping. Your body temperature starts dropping during the initial stages of falling asleep. An external temperature drop that matches your internal temperature drop helps you fall asleep. That’s why having a bedroom environment between 66 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit is best for sleeping. If the bedroom is overly warm, it can create a stimulating effect and keep you awake.

7. Remove the glowing alarm clock. You’re having trouble sleeping. You wonder how long you’ve been lying in bed. You calculate how much sleep you could get if only you’d fall asleep right then. You look over at the clock yet again. Don’t … instead, ditch the clock – it’s only stressing you out. If you can’t sleep, get up and go to another room. Read for a while until you’re ready to try to sleep again. Repeat. Leaving the room and reading will increase your chances of eventually getting sleep. Staring at and stressing over the red glow of a digital alarm clock will not help you get into the relaxed state of mind that tells your brain it’s time to sleep.

REX Sleep Disorders Centers

If you are suffering from sleeplessness, take REX Sleep Disorders Center’s free online SleepAware assessment, to find out if you are at risk of a sleep disorder.