The beginning and end to a successful day is a good night’s sleep. Getting six to eight hours of quality REM sleep improves job performance (and athletic performance), but the National Sleep Foundation reports that daytime sleepiness because of insufficient sleep affects close to 30 percent of workers each month. So what can you do to get better sleep?
Personal sleep hygiene techniques—such as going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, avoiding alcohol and nicotine, and other healthful behaviors associated with good sleep—are only one aspect of preparation for a good night’s sleep. Your bedroom environment can also help you sleep better. The temperature, the amount of light present and even the smell of your bedding, along with factors like a comfortable mattress and the right pillows, all contribute to your ideal sleep environment.
These seven tips will turn your bedroom into your sleep sanctuary.
1. Keep it cool.
Though personal preferences may vary, according to sleep experts, you should keep your bedroom somewhere around 65 degrees for optimal sleep. A too-hot room interferes with the body’s natural dip in body temperature associated with sleep. Temperature is so important to sleep that some types of insomnia result from improper temperature regulation. Lowering the air conditioning and using specifically designed cooling pillows can help.
2. Don’t settle for the wrong mattress.
According to a National Sleep Foundation survey, 93 percent of respondents consider a comfortable mattress important to a good night’s sleep. Choosing the wrong mattress and it being either too firm or too soft often results in a lack of support and back and/or neck pain. The best way to figure out if a mattress is right for you is to test it out. Go to a local mattress retailer and try out mattresses of different firmness levels and different materials, and take your time testing them out—the extra sleep you’ll get later is worth it.
3. Make scents.
Surrounding yourself with smells you love is not only pleasant but can also help you sleep better. The National Institutes of Health research shows that using lavender oil decreases blood pressure, heart rate and skin temperature in sleepers. Participants in the study also reported feeling more active, fresh and relaxed. Sprinkle a few drops of lavender oil on a tissue and place it under your pillow, or use an aromatherapy diffuser.
Related: How to Sleep Better
4. Ditch the screens.
Today’s constant access to technology means that people are spending more time looking at screens—TVs, laptops, cellphones, tablets—in bed than ever before. That’s not good for sleep, though, with light from electronic devices suppressing the melatonin we need to sleep. Move TVs out of the bedroom and leave behind phones, tablets and laptops an hour before bed for better sleep.
5. Use light correctly.
The circadian rhythm that determines when we sleep and when we wake is inextricably tied to light and darkness. Light and darkness cue our body’s activities—or lack thereof. Keep your bedroom dark when you go to sleep and make it gradually lighter as it gets closer to waking time to take advantage of the body’s natural rhythm. You’ll sleep better and wake up more naturally. Depending on where you live, this can be as simple as leaving your blinds or curtains open, but many areas have streetlights and other factors that lead to light pollution. In those cases, close the blinds or curtains and equip your bedroom with a wake-up light that corresponds to a natural sleep cycle.
6. Embrace white noise.
Noise pollution, whether from outside or inside—the sounds of passing cars, train horns, the early morning garbage truck, slamming doors, or other common household sounds—can jostle you from sound sleep. Ambient white noise reduces the difference between background sounds and those more disturbing sounds, making it easier to sleep serenely. Common household items like fans and air purifiers generate white noise, but if you need something more, there are plenty of white noise machines on the market.
7. Make your bed.
Making the bed is a simple morning chore that makes a big difference. This simple morning task makes you happier and more productive, prepares you for other chores throughout the day, neatens your bedroom, and gives you the nighttime ritual of turning down the bed before sleep.
Many people underestimate how important surroundings can be when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep. A few simple changes can make a world of difference. So turn off the TV, lower the thermostat, turn down your bed, and hit your comfy mattress and pillows. Good night, and good luck.