When it comes to sleep quality, there are dozens of factors that matter. From what you eat and how you manage your stress level to biological factors and even weather, there are many independent variables involved. But one of the most important – and one that you have total control over – is the bedroom environment. By optimizing the different elements inside your bedroom, you can create an environment that’s highly conducive to sleep and restoration.
Let’s start with the element that your body comes into contact with the most: the mattress, pillow, and bedding. If you don’t get this aspect of your bedroom environment right, nothing else really matters. Signs and symptoms of a poor sleeping surface include:
- Dust mites
- Body pain
- Deformation of the mattress (sagging)
- Hygiene issues (like mold and mildew)
- Joint soreness
- Lack of sleep
As for the mattress, every body type is different. Some people like an extremely firm mattress, while others prefer something with some more bounce. The only way to get a mattress that’s right for you is to try out some different options. (And if you have the budget, springing for an adjustable mattress is the best course of action.)
Your pillow selection is also important. You need to buy one that’s right for your body type and sleep needs. A pillow that’s too low leaves a kink in the neck; a pillow that’s too high props the head up but quickly becomes uncomfortable; and a pillow that’s just right aligns the neck for optimal support and comfort. An adjustable loft pillow makes it possible to optimize the pillow to the individual’s body type.
As for bedding, you want something that’s breathable and soft on the skin. Some people prefer the comfort of a weighted blanket, while others like down comforters with a bit more fluff. Again, it’s all up to you. The important thing is that you don’t just go with generic selections. By tailoring your mattress, pillow, and bedding to your needs, you’ll enjoy better quality sleep more of the time.
While sleep researchers fail to agree upon an exact temperature, it’s pretty clear that ambient room temperature has a direct impact on quality of sleep.
Evidence suggests that anything above 75 degrees Fahrenheit and below 54 degrees will disrupt sleep. The exact number in between depends on a lot of factors, including your body type and personal preferences.
As a general rule of thumb, keep your room slightly cooler than comfortable and then use blankets and comforters to maximize your body heat and keep you warm. The right combination of air conditioning, heat, fans, and humidifiers will also help you sleep better. The best way to find your ideal temperature is through trial and error.
Light is very underrated in terms of how it impacts sleep quality. Through your sense of sight, the brain absorbs information about light in the surrounding environment. This information is then used to regulate your internal sleep-wake cycle. As lighting subsides and darkness ensues, your body is encouraged to release hormones like melatonin, which bring on sleepiness. When lighting returns, melatonin levels bottom out and you become more wakeful and alert.
If you maintain an irregular sleep schedule, or if outside light sources like streetlights compromise your bedroom’s darkness, blackout curtains can help restore the proper balance. If you’re worried about the room being too dark in the morning, a sunrise alarm clock could help your body wake up at the right time.
Though some people seem to be more susceptible to noise than others, research indicates that noise levels as low as 40 decibels can keep us awake at night. That means everything from your next-door neighbor’s sound system to the dripping faucet in the nearby bathroom can rob you of precious sleep.
If you’re the type of person who finds it difficult to sleep through noises – quiet or loud – you may want to invest in a white noise machine. (A simple box fan is also effective.) If you live on a busy street with lots of noise from traffic, soundproof windowpanes would be a worthwhile upgrade.
Research shows that people whose rooms are painted blue tend to sleep longer than those who fall asleep in rooms with different wall colors. The technical explanation is that our eyes have specialized receptors – called ganglion cells – that are most sensitive to blue. When you’re exposed to blue, your blood pressure is reduced, your heart rate goes down, and you feel a greater sense of relaxation. These all positively impact your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep longer.
How’s Your Sleep Environment?
You might think you sleep okay, but it’s easy to be misled when you don’t know what you’re missing out on. If you constantly feel fatigued during the day, feel like you toss and turn at night, and/or have trouble getting up in the morning, you probably aren’t getting as much quality sleep as you need. And while there could be an underlying health condition to blame, you can almost certainly enhance your sleep quality with some simple tweaks to your bedroom environment. Give it a try and see what happens!