Creating the Perfect Environment for Sleep

When I first started to have issues with my sleep it was a long time before I realised that my sleeping conditions were far from optimal. It took my mother walking in to my bedroom (I lived with my parents at the time) and exclaiming, ‘well, no wonder you can’t sleep!’ It was only at that point that I considered that there might be a problem.

My bedroom was in a very bright room due to it being a loft conversion. Even with the blinds down it was still very light in the evenings. I think my mattress must have been at least ten years old and you could definitely feel it, although I had never considered doing anything about it. I think that was probably my student mindset, not wanting to spend any money on something I had deemed to be non-essential. My room was also very cluttered as I had tried to fit the contents of my old flat into one room at my parent’s house.

With my sleep problems dominating my life I made the decision to make some major changes to my bedroom. I decluttered, rearranged and replaced all in one day. I cannot recommend it enough. As well as finding the process very therapeutic, the changes I had made helped improve my sleep drastically.

As I can confirm from my own experience, our environment can have a profound effect on our mental well-being. When it comes to sleep there are a number of different environmental factors which we should be thinking about. Optimising these can not only help us to fall asleep more quickly but also improve the quality of our sleep. Below is a list of key points you might want to consider when looking at the set-up of your bedroom:

1. Temperature is key – we need to ensure that our bedrooms are the right temperature for sleep. Opening the windows in the hours before bedtime can cool the room down in warm weather. On the other hand a hot water bottle may be required in the winter months. Recently I was told a nifty trick to help sleep during a heatwave. Half-fill your hot water bottle and stick it in the freezer. This then goes in the foot of the bed to cool the bed down.
2. Animal-Free Zone – pet owners may want to consider shutting the pets out of the bedroom. I’ve had to close the door on my two cats on a regular basis as they chase each other around the laminate flooring in the early hours of the morning. Your animals may not like it at first but they will soon get used to sleeping elsewhere. Hopefully you’ll be sleeping that much better that your improved mood will be noticeable to them. When they realise how much happier their owner is then I am sure they will forgive you!
3. Create Darkness – good quality curtains are important but you may want to consider investing in black-out blinds/curtains. Also if you have something like a digital alarm clock then you might want to consider removing that as the screen can generate excess light. Darkness is a key trigger for our bodies to recognise when it is time to go to sleep. Using an eye mask may also be helpful to shut out excess light. I have found that this is particularly helpful in the mornings as it prevents me from waking up too early in the summer months.
4. Say No to Screens – ban technology from the bedroom. Resist the urge to have a television set on the wall and try not to use smartphones/tablets in the bedroom. Even avoid ‘night shift’ mode on things like iPads and iPhones. Your brain will appreciate the break from constant information overload in this digital age. I would recommend reading as a relaxing bedtime alternative.
5. Invest in a Good Mattress – now I know we are not all made of money but a good mattress is important for your health. Not only does it help you with sleep but it is also important for the health of your spine. When I was using my ten year old mattress I could actually feel the springs through the fabric. I took myself down to Ikea and spent £300 on a new mattress (of course I spent an hour testing out all the options in the shop). It was honestly one of the best purchases I have ever made. Investing in your sleep is a wise choice as it is a key element of our health. Poor sleep can have a knock-on effect in every area of our lives. Weigh that up in your mind against the price of a new mattress.
6. Quiet – now sometimes the level of noise is not something we have control over, for example living near a busy road. It is surprising how quickly we can get used to this though as I found when I moved into my new flat. For the first few nights I thought I would never get a decent sleep due to cars racing up and down the main road next to my window. A few days later I was barely noticing it and now I actually find it difficult to sleep without these sounds. Some people find that white noise can be helpful so that may be something you want to consider experimenting with.

In the last week I have been redecorating my new flat. I had chosen a calming light blue colour for the bedroom walls, with matching bedding and black out curtains. Also I decided to remove the television bracket that was on the wall in front of my bed and replaced it with a canvas print of a mountain range. I’ve created myself a sanctuary. I feel instant calm every time I walk into my bedroom.

I hope that these ideas have been helpful to you. Have any of you had a similar experience with re-decorating? What would be your advice for creating the perfect sleeping environment?

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