Your Sleeping Problems May Lie in Your Environment
Clinical Herbalist Reviewed on December 1, 2018 by Paulina Nelega, RH
Posted in Sleep Support
When you climb into bed, you want your head to hit the pillow and to fall into a deep, restorative slumber—not to toss and turn for hours or wake up in the middle of the night. Sleeping problems afflict thousands of people and can be frustrating to deal with, since a good’s night sleep is so important to our physical and mental health.
If you’re having trouble sleeping at night, you may also struggle to identify the cause. There are a lot of factors that might be contributing to your difficulty falling and staying asleep.
One element that people don’t always consider when it comes to sleep is their sleeping environment. Everything from the temperature, amount of light, sound and more can make you uncomfortable and prevent you from sleeping.
Here are seven environmental factors you should pay attention to before trying to catch some Zs.
- Light: There’s a scientific reason that people sleep in the dark. A lack of light helps your body produce melatonin, a hormone that triggers your body to get ready for sleep. Melatonin is necessary if you want to get a full, comfortable night’s rest, and a lack of it can make it hard to fall asleep. Turn off all the lights in your bedroom and install or shut the shades if daylight or lights from the street filter in. Additionally, turn off or cover electronics that give off a light, such as a bright alarm clock or a television. Finally, put your devices away before going to sleep. The bright light from a cell phone—particularly when it’s the only light in the room—can have an adverse effect on melatonin production and make it difficult to sleep.
- Sound: Sound can play a large role in affecting your sleep. Loud or random noises can make it very difficult to fall asleep and can also wake you from sleep or affect your transition through the sleep cycles. Sometimes, noise isn’t avoidable, such as the sound of cars passing outside your window or a noisy neighbor. Invest in a sound machine to play white noise. The consistency of the sound can be calming and help drown out the other noises.
- Temperature: When you sleep, your body’s temperature lowers, so your room should also be kept cool. Hot temperatures can disrupt your ability to fall asleep by making you uncomfortable. Experts recommend that you keep the temperature in your bedroom between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit (15 to 19 degrees Celsius) for optimal sleeping. Additionally, avoid thick or heat-trapping sheets like flannel and opt for a simple cotton to wick away moisture and breathe throughout the night.
- Pillows and comfort: If you have a lumpy pillow or firm mattress, you know that it can be super difficult to fall asleep when you’re feeling uncomfortable. Sleeping on an old or uncomfortable mattress or with pillows that don’t offer the right kind of support can hurt you in more ways than one—you’ll have trouble falling asleep and you’ll probably become stiff or sore, which will make it even harder to sleep the next night.
- Cleanliness: Your bedroom is supposed to be a calm and clear place full of relaxation, but if it’s filled with messes, you might have trouble falling asleep. Tidy up and keep your bedroom clean to give your mind a place to relax. Additionally, an unclean room might start to smell, which can also keep you from being in the right headspace to fall asleep.
- Technology: We live in an increasingly connected world, and most of us sleep with our cell phones next to us. In addition to the light problem they cause, sleeping near cell phones or other technological devices can be detrimental to your sleep because they are a major distraction. With apps to scroll through and notifications buzzing or beeping, it can be tempting to pick up the phone just as you’re on the brink of sleep. Use your phone’s “do not disturb” feature or turn it off entirely to curb the temptation.
- Smell: Some people use aromatherapy to help them fall asleep, since different scents can affect your sleep. A popular scent to help you unwind is lavender. Pillow sprays, essential oils and candles can all be useful in creating a sleep sanctuary in your bedroom.
Live better, sleep better
Making changes to your bedroom environment can have a surprising effect on your ability to fall asleep more easily and stay asleep. In addition to these changes, consider making other lifestyle changes to promote better sleep, such as drinking more water, exercising and meditating before bed to promote calm and restorative slumber.
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Paulina Nelega, RH, has been in private practice as a Clinical Herbalist for over 15 years. She has developed and taught courses in herbal medicine, and her articles on health have appeared in numerous publications. She is very passionate about the healing power of nature. Ask Dr. Jan