How to create a better sleep environment

According to researchers at Harvard Medical School (HMS), you won’t get a good night’s rest without preparing your environment. Your bedroom needs to be cool, quiet and dark. Banish light from televisions, digital devices, smartphones, street lamps and indicator lights on wall-mounted power sockets:   

“Light is one of the most important external factors that can affect sleep,” found the HMS researchers. “It does so both directly, by making it difficult for people to fall asleep, and indirectly, by influencing the timing of our internal clock and thereby affecting our preferred time to sleep.”

How does light get in when our eyes are closed?

“Light influences our internal clock through specialized “light-sensitive” cells in the retina of our eyes,” the HMS researchers reported. “These cells, which occupy the same space as the rods and cones that make vision possible, tell the brain whether it is daytime or nighttime, and our sleep patterns are set accordingly.”

Light exposure causes our internal clock to go haywire. It literally doesn’t know what time it is – or when optimum bedtime should occur. 

Take steps for a good night’s zzz.

Harvard Medical School suggests cleaning up your sleep environment by taking these steps:

  1. Mattress Makeover: Do you need to upgrade that mattress? Most are sad and saggy after a decade. They are probably clogged with dust allergens too.
  2. Silent night: If you live in a noisy neighborhood, invest in a white noise machine
  3. Embrace the darkness: Make sure your drapes achieve full blackout to eliminate light pollution outside. 
  4. Cool Down: Buy a fan to get the temperature down to a cool 65 – 70 degrees. 
  5. Banish blue light emitters – it’s time to remove all blue light emitters from your bedroom. Watch those vintage TV reruns in the den instead. Make your bedroom a sanctuary for sleep. Let your smartphone charge next door so you’re not tempted to check your schedule in the small hours. It can all wait until tomorrow.
  6. Six hours sleep – okay, put that coffee or teacup down and don’t reach for a soda. No more caffeine or you just won’t sleep. If you enjoy alcohol, consider reducing your intake before bedtime. It feels as if it’ll make you sleepy, and often does, in the short-term, but you’ll be wide-awake looking at the ceiling that needs to be painted by 2 AM if you overindulge.
  7. Half an hour before sleep – settle in early. Crack open a window to let in oxygen and release C02. Close the drapes tightly – we’re going for blackout here. No street-lamps that can peek through. If you’re in a twosome, try having a conversation about what went right with your day (save the angst for daylight solutions). Flying solo into the land of dreams? Snuggle under the covers with a good book, something soothing (poetry?) and a mug of warming Golden Milk. Turn off the light at a reasonable hour. Get 8-hours sleep. You’ll feel amazing tomorrow. Take some deep breaths. Relax.

Recharge. You need it. Your brain needs it. Your cells will thank you.


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